OCT 28, 2015 4:39 AM PDT

Stop Chewing So Loud!

Does the noise of another person chewing gum or slurping their soup drive you to distraction? If you are unable to tune out someone else’s lip smacking or humming you might be part of the 20% of the population that has a condition called misophonia. Misophonia is translated literally as the “hatred of sound” but what does that really mean?
 
Misophonia could indicate creative thinking

Misophonia is also described as “selective sound sensitivity syndrome” or 4S, hyperacusis.  Specifically the sounds that usually trigger the anxiety and other feelings that go along with the disorder are usually oral sounds. Chewing food, breathing, even yawning or whistling can be a trigger to someone who suffers from the disorder.  The reaction of a person who is misophonic can range from mild to severe.  A mild reaction could be discomfort,  anxiety, the urge to leave the area or  disgust. A severe reaction could be much more involved. It’s been reported that some people are so disturbed by certain sounds that they can feel rage, panic, hatred for the person making the noise and even the urge to kill that person, or themselves. All this over the ordinary sounds of eating, speaking or chewing? Yes indeed, the disorder is getting a lot of attention and a study conducted at the Academic Center in Amsterdam, Holland recommended that it be recognized as a discrete psychiatric disorder since there was no current entry in the DSM or ICD-10 databases.
 
A new study on the effects of these oral trigger sounds is bringing attention to the issue however, and putting a different spin on the condition. Scientists from Northwestern University conducted research on the process of sensory gating and creativity. There were two types of sensory gating examined; leaky sensory gating which was associated with real world creativity and selective sensory gating which was associated with divergent thinking, a different form of creativity.

What does that mean in plain English?  “Leaky” sensory gating means that the ability to filter out sensory input is weak and that the brain lets in almost everything going on around it. This is where misophonia comes in. Normal sounds like chewing or yawning are not noticed by most people, but those who experience leaky sensory gating are unable to keep out extraneous input . These same people also tended to be more creative according to the study done by researchers at Northwestern. The difference lies in the type of creativity. Divergent thinking and real world creative achievement are different at the neuronal level of brain activity.  An article on the website www.allergictosound.com explains it this way: Divergent thinking and creative achievement have different neural mechanisms of sensory gating. In other words there’s a difference between having the ability to generate lots of creative ideas and creative achievement itself.” 
 
Misophonia sufferers fall into the category of real world creative achievement. While the disorder might seem debilitating and distracting, the results of the study show that the same people who are driven to anger and anxiety by lip smacking and gum chewing can be brilliant in terms of creative accomplishments. Check out the video to learn more about this condition.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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