Do some sounds make your skin crawl? If so, scientists want to hear from you

University of Sussex

A woman prepares to eat some noodles

Are you irritated by sounds of people eating? (Image credit Artem Labunsky)

A team of psychologists at the University of Sussex is on the look-out for people who have a strong aversion to some sounds. They are investigating the phenomenon of “misophonia” which is where sounds like chewing, gulping or biro-clicking can trigger intense irritation, anger or distress in some people.

Scientists believe that one in five people suffer from the condition to varying degrees, with less than one percent of people experiencing the most extreme symptoms.

Researchers still have much to discover about misophonia, which is little-understood compared with other conditions. The University of Sussex team intends to find new ways of identifying misophonics, and understanding why some people vulnerable to developing the condition. They will investigate whether people with misophonia have an aversion to other senses too, and the ways in which people manage their symptoms. The team hope that their research may lead to treatments for people with severe misophonia.

Prof Jamie Ward is from the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex. He is leading a study into misophonia in adults, and says:

“For people with misophonia, everyday sounds like chewing, crunching, or breathing can cause intense negative emotions such as anger, rage, fear or disgust. The condition can have a highly detrimental impact on daily life but is often poorly understood, largely because the sounds which trigger the symptoms are easily ignored by most people.

“Our research will tackle the important question of why misophonia emerges in some people and not others. What is special about their brains or about their style of attending to sensory signals? We will use a variety of methods to answer this question including questionnaires, perceptual tests, and brain imaging.

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