Misophonia, the name of which is derived from the Greek roots “misos” (meaning “hate”) and “phoni” (meaning “voice” or “sound”), is such a newly identified and under-researched condition that even the information in the English-language Wikipedia article ranges from (at best) woefully out of date to (at worst) outright misleading. This is likely because the medical establishment has not yet recognized misophonia formerly as a medical condition, and as such has not established formal diagnostic criteria for it.
Thankfully some very sensible researchers in Europe have been making significant strides over the last several years, in both raising awareness and gathering data, that have enabled the Sacarin Center to adapt Dr. Tomatis’s techniques for improving quality of life for our misophonic clients.
So What Is Misophonia, Anyway?
Whether or not you’ve read our previous writing on the subject, you may know that misophonia is characterized by strong aversions to everyday sound that can cause sudden and violent shifts in emotion; the classic example is the office worker who flies into a rage at the sound of their coworkers chewing during lunch hour. It should be noted, however, that in theory any sound perceived by the patient as unpleasant could trigger such a reaction.
This is why those very sensible researchers mentioned earlier have, for the purposes of establishing a clinical context to facilitate research and treatment, tended to limit the scope of their investigation to the human sounds that trigger such emotional reactions, which can involve many of the ancillary sounds that people make when producing speech that don’t contribute to the meaning imparted by that speech – lip smacking, teeth whistling, et cetera.
Here we start to see how Dr. Tomatis’ Listening method, when appropriately adapted and individualized, can be useful for helping children and adults who experience misophonia. In the context of speech, it’s easy to see how the auditory processing centers in the brain might be favoring these extraneous elements of human speech over the ones that actually allow them to comprehend it, effectively “crowding out” the relevant sounds with the violent emotions that come with misophonic triggers and interrupt the processes of learning and interpretation. When these conditions persist across a lifetime – the average length of time experiencing misophonia symptoms reported by patients in one key study was around 21 years – it’s clear how they could impair functioning to the point where targeted treatment is required. Since Dr. Tomatis’ Listening method essentially works on the basis of reconditioning the brain to attend to and interpret speech in a healthy manner, naturally, certain aspects of it would be well-suited to treating individuals with misophonia.
Okay, But What About Anxiety?
Curiously, while the above-mentioned study by the psychiatry department at the Amsterdam UMC zeroes in on three specific emotions aroused in misophonic patients by aversive sounds (namely anger, disgust and sadness), its authors go out of their way to point out that fear, understood to be the root cause of anxiety, is not associated with exposure to any stimulus that triggers the misophonia response.
Anxiety only enters the picture once a patient’s symptoms have become so acute and persistent that they are impairing their ability to function normally. Usually, this manifests as the patient isolating themselves socially from fear of the suffering imposed by their symptoms. This not only creates the conditions for the rapid onset of a pathologically anxiety-ridden condition, but if the patient is already struggling with communication as a result of the disruptions caused by misophonia, this will quickly create a cycle of dysfunction.
Luckily, at the Sacarin Center we also practice q EEG swLORETA neurofeedback techniques that are very useful for managing anxiety. Thus, with a two-pronged approach involving aspects of the Tomatis method for treating misophonia and neurofeedback for managing co-morbid anxiety, we are well-equipped to treat the full range of difficulties that arise from living with this under-recognized and underestimated condition. To learn more about how Dr. Sacarin can help with both the direct causes and indirect effects of misophonia and other related conditions, visit Misophonia Treatment..