How To Treat Misophonia

April 26, 2024

Misophonia is a condition in which certain sounds trigger an extremely agitated reaction. Individuals with the disorder find these sounds unpleasant and experience heightened emotional reactions to them. Others often find these reactions to be unreasonable given the seemingly-benign nature of the sound. The emotions of a patient with misophonia might involve annoyance, anger, panic, or a desire to flee. Many individuals with misophonia are triggered by sounds of chewing and breathing. Other common trigger sounds are windshield wipers, repetitive finger tapping, and keyboard tapping. Misophonia patients may have worsened reactions when seeing visual stimuli with the sound, like someone joggling their foot or a mouth opening and closing. Research suggests the condition is caused by a problem with how the brain filters noise.

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Supportive Counseling

Treatments for misophonia tend to take an integrated approach including lifestyle adjustments and different types of therapy. Supportive counseling can be helpful for those with the condition. Many patients experience deep emotional distress with regards to their trigger sounds. They may even have traumatic experiences they need to work through, especially if others have exposed them to trigger sounds without consent on purpose. Oftentimes, individuals with misophonia also have a deep sense of embarrassment about their condition. It can cause social relationships to suffer and be the source of emotional dysregulation problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that teaches patients to redirect and alter their negative thoughts to decrease their suffering. The therapist may also pair trigger sounds with positive stimuli to create a better association.

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Sound Therapy

Though there's considerable debate about whether misophonia is a neurological or psychological condition, it's undoubtedly helpful for patients to receive therapeutic services from an audiologist. Audiologists study the science of sound, hearing, and how the brain interprets sensory information. If misophonia is caused by a problem with the brain's sound filtration, sound therapy can be used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy to help alleviate suffering. Exposure therapy programs have helped some patients reduce their behavioral responses and sensitivity. However, others experience increasing distress when repeatedly exposed to trigger sounds. Since misophonia is not currently recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there haven't been clinical trials or studies that can develop a better understanding. Audiologists should work with their clients regarding sound therapy strategies, adjusting them if they're not having results or making the condition worse.

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Hearing Aids

Some patients with misophonia may benefit from hearing aids, which are are commonly used to amplify outside sounds for individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss. However, these devices can be designed to accommodate individuals with other sound-related disorders as well. In misophonia treatment, a hearing aid device can create ongoing, soothing white noise like rain or waves crashing. The pleasantness of this sound helps minimize the pain caused by trigger sounds. It's a distracting noise that reduces emotional reactions and helps with the mental suffering linked to misophonia. Hearing aids can be fitted by audiologists and are available in many shapes and sizes. For patients without hearing aids, playing white noise with noise-reducing earbuds can achieve a similar effect. It muffles outside sounds and offers a distraction.

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Get Plenty Of Sleep

Certain lifestyle changes can help manage misophonia reactions. One of the most important is to get plenty of sleep. When individuals don't get enough sleep, especially on a chronic level, their emotional responses become more volatile and reactive. Research indicates just one night of sleep deprivation can cause individuals to react impulsively and strongly to unpleasant and negative situations. Given that misophonia involves extremely heightened reactions to sound, this is a recipe for disaster. Making lifestyle changes to get more sleep can help smooth a patient's emotions and allows them to have an easier time balancing their mental health. Vigorous and frequent exercise can also help by expending energy and agitation. Vitamin-rich dietary changes may help patients feel better physically.

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Reduce Stress

There are varying ways to reduce stress levels for misophonia patients. When individuals with misophonia are exposed to trigger sounds, their stress levels rise. Constant stress will lead to greater emotional volatility, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It's a vicious cycle. For this reason, it's important that everyone in the individual's environment be part of the environmental changes. Some might rearrange their homes to create safe, quiet spots free of trigger sounds. Family counseling services might help implement stress-reduction strategies and set boundaries. Going to misophonia support groups can also sometimes reduce stress, especially if an individual is often not believed about their symptoms. Patients should also try to reduce common stressors in non-misophonia-related areas of their life like work, school, and friendships. The less stress someone is carrying, the easier it is to use mindfulness and emotional regulation tools.

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Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

Tinnitus retraining therapy is a technique that can help with both misophonia and tinnitus. Tinnitus is the name for a repetitive ringing or pulsing in the ears. To undergo tinnitus retraining therapy, patients will work with hearing professionals. The main way the therapy works is by finding the source of tinnitus and helping patients ignore it. Even if individuals don't have tinnitus, this method can help train their brain to ignore misophonia triggers so they don't cause as much distress. Each patient who undergoes tinnitus retraining therapy will first go through a screening where they'll discuss their medical history, hearing issues, and goals with their doctor. Then they'll use devices behind their ear to generate white noise that distracts them from the offending sounds. This, combined with psychological therapy that helps train the brain away from the noise, can help patients manage misophonia.

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Researchers are still learning about the best ways to treat misophonia. Though misophonia appears to be its eir own condition, it also seems to have overlap with many other conditions, including Tourette syndrome, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants can be used to manage both anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some patients may find when their anxiety is better managed, they experience less of a reaction to their trigger sounds. Individuals on the autism spectrum may also be more likely to have misophonia and other sensory-related triggers. By managing any co-existing mental health conditions with medication, affected individuals may be able to manage the misophonia.

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Maintain A Healthy Diet

It can help misophonia patients to maintain a healthy diet, though researchers are still learning what causes misophonia. While it probably isn't caused by poor diet alone, changes to diet can help patients manage the condition. Sensory issues and neurological processing issues can both be exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies. It's important for individuals to get the right vitamins and minerals to keep their body functioning as well as possible. There aren't specific foods that have been identified as helpful for misophonia, but health professionals recommend eating several servings of fruit, vegetables, grains, and protein per day. Patients can talk to their doctor about the healthiest diet choices for their body type.

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Wear Hearing Protection

One way individuals with misophonia can help mitigate their sound triggers is to wear hearing protection. Hearing protection is recommended for workers who work in any kind of loud environment. This protection helps protect individuals against hearing loss. For misophonia patients, hearing protection can muffle trigger noises to keep them from being so overwhelming. Hearing protection can include earplugs and other noise-muffling devices. Individuals can also use noise-canceling headphones to dampen sounds and overwrite them with better sensory input. There are different levels of hearing protection. If individuals work in loud environments, they should use whatever level is recommended for their profession. If they don't, they can experiment with different levels until they find the amount of protection most comfortable for them.

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Misophonia Support Groups

There are many misophonia support groups available to help misophonia patients share their experiences and resources. Some individuals may be able to find support groups in real life through their local counseling offices. For others, especially those in rural areas, online support groups are an option. With online support groups, patients can find others who have similar experiences, share their thoughts, and trade helpful solutions with each other. Many individuals with misophonia experience a great deal of relief from connecting with the wider community. It can be very comforting for individuals to know others have gone through the same thing they have, and they aren't making it up.

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