Can’t stand the sound of slurping? First UK study shows one in five of us have a condition called misophonia, which triggers a strong negative reaction to ordinary sounds
- Common noises such as coughing and sniffling can negatively affect one in five
- British study, the first of its kind, has delved into the condition called misophonia
- People with the condition are more likely to report anger or fear through sounds
Sniffing, coughing and slurping are sounds that most of us barely notice.
But such noises can be so bothersome to some people that they can cause distress, anger and even panic, scientists say.
You may have this condition, called misophonia, if you react strongly negatively to common noises, from throat clearing and knuckle cracking to couples kissing.
The first UK study on misophonia has now shown that it affects up to a fifth of us.
The study identified participants for whom the condition is a “burden” on their lives – although only those with an extreme problem would need help. Researchers used a questionnaire to assess sound triggers, responses and response intensity of the 772 participants.
The scientists also identified misophonia red flags for those wondering if they have it.
You may have this condition, called misophonia, if you react strongly negatively to common sounds, from throat clearing to sniffing
They found that if a person is stressed while breathing and swallowing normally, this indicates that they have the condition, as these noises do not bother the majority of the population.
Senior study author Dr Jane Gregory, from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The experience of misophonia is more than just being annoyed by a noise. Misophonia can cause feelings of helplessness and being trapped when people can’t escape an unpleasant sound.
“Often people with misophonia feel bad about themselves for reacting the way they do, especially when they react to sounds from loved ones.”
Experts say people with misophonia often experience a fight-or-flight response to sounds, which can trigger anger and a need to escape.
The sounds can include people rustling, chewing gum, or sneezing, as well as sounds such as ticking clocks and car engines.
The study, which looked at 37 common sound triggers and 25 different responses in the questionnaire, found that people without misophonia tend to feel irritated by certain sounds.
But the reactions of people with misophonia are more intense and they are more likely to report fear, anger or panic.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that misophonia significantly affected 18.4 percent of people. However, only 2.3 percent thought they had the condition and only 13.6 percent had ever heard of it.
The analysis showed that misophonia was equally common in men and women. The average age of those with the condition was found to be 43.
Lead author Dr Silia Vitoratou, from King’s College London, said the study showed that ‘most people with misophonia don’t have a name to describe what they are experiencing’.