People who find sound of chewing gum or pen clicking unbearable have a brain abnormality, scientists find – Telegraph.co.uk
While many people find hearing people eat off-putting or pen clicking annoying, others who suffer from misophonia report feeling disgust when exposed to the noises.
Referring to “trigger sounds”, people with misophonia can respond with an intense “fight or flight” reaction.
Now researchers at Newcastle University have reported finding a difference in the frontal lobe in misophonia sufferers, suggesting it is a genuine condition where medical opinion in the past has been sceptical.
Writing in the journal Current Biology, they found changes in the brain activity when a trigger sound is experienced.
They also found people with misophonia experienced an increased heart rate and sweated when they were confronted by a trigger sound.
Researchers found a difference in the “emotional control mechanism” that causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds.
Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, said: “For many people with misophonia, this will come as welcome news as for the first time we have demonstrated a difference in brain structure and function in sufferers.
“This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a sceptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.”
Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, said: “I hope this will reassure sufferers.
“I was part of the sceptical community myself until we saw patients in the clinic and understood how strikingly similar the features are.”
One misophonia sufferer said her GP laughed when she told him about her symptoms.
Olana Tansley-Hancock, 29, from Ashford in Kent, was eight years old when family meals became unbearable for her.
She said: “The noise of my family eating forced me to retreat to my own bedroom for meals.
“I can only describe it as a feeling of wanting to punch people in the face when I heard the noise of them eating – and anyone who knows me will say that doesn’t sound like me.”
The issue came to a head when she went to university and had to move train carriages seven times because the noise of people eating and rustling papers was unbearable.
“When I saw my GP at the time, he laughed at me,” she said.
“Then I tried a counsellor but in my case, that made it worse as it made me even more sensitive to sound.”
After researching misophonia, she has changed her lifestyle, reducing her caffeine and alcohol intake and uses headphones when visiting the cinema.
She said:”This research is a huge relief as it shows there is a physical basis for misophonia which should help others understand the condition.
“It also opens up the opportunity for better management.”