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I spotted a tweet yesterday from @Neuro_Skeptic which introduced me to the word ‘misophonia’ which refers to a hatred of certain sounds. I’d assume everyone has sounds that they dislike (chalk on a blackboard seems to be universally disliked, it’s also used to good effect in the film Jaws when a man who wants to go off and capture the shark needs to get the attention of everyone in the room) but the article linked in the tweet below is talking about situations where annoying sounds are more problematic and anxiety-inducing for people, even when the sounds are not present. The authors wonder if more extreme responses to these sounds, and anxiety about them, are indicative of other issues.

While there are many sounds that drive me to distraction they rarely drive me to violence, tempting as it is when some idiot is on their phone and texting with the keyclick sounds on (dear god, why? why?!) – I actually find the keyclicks more irritating than the key-beeps. The noise irritates but also the fact that the person hasn’t worked out how to shush their phone and doesn’t appear to care that they might be annoying other people. I am surprised there have been no punch-ups to be honest, if not from me from others who are less restrained 😉

I was once officially annoyed by someone playing a game on their phone, quite loudly, with no thought to other passengers. However the music and sound-effects being emitted from the device were so pleasant that I didn’t say anything (I don’t usually say anything, I just quietly tut, Britishly).

Sounds I really dislike include microwaves that beep for too long after they’ve successfully heated food, the unpleasant warning sounds emitted by bus doors as they close, car alarms or house-sited burglar alarms that go on for too long. The piercing yells of small children. But annoying as these are I don’t think my response to them warrants psychiatric evaluation… yet.

The paper linked in the tweet above is:
Hatred of sounds: Misophonic disorder or just an underreported psychiatric symptom? Ferreira GM, Harrison BJ, Fontenelle LF. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;25(4):271-4.

These two may also be of interest.

Misophonia: diagnostic criteria for a new psychiatric disorder.
Schröder A, Vulink N, Denys D.
PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54706. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054706. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Misophonia: physiological investigations and case descriptions.
Edelstein M, Brang D, Rouw R, Ramachandran VS.
Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Jun 25;7:296. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00296. eCollection 2013.