Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Wired for Sound?

Credit: Scott Griessel/Adobe

Credit: Scott Griessel/Adobe

By Tim Hannan

A new study proposes a biological cause for misophonia – the pathological hatred of sounds.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Many of us display a degree of discomfort when exposed to certain sounds, such as fingernails being scraped down a blackboard, the grinding of teeth, or fellow diners chewing their kale too loudly. For some people, however, these and certain other sounds trigger an intense emotional reaction involving increased physiological arousal, a feeling of disgust and the desire to flee.

While acknowledging that some people find certain sounds unpleasant, and that this may have an impact on one’s emotional state, health professionals have largely been skeptical as to whether this constitutes a discrete condition, and unpersuaded that a neurobiological basis could be identified. Now, a study by researchers in the UK has found that those who are observed to display this reaction have different patterns of brain activation when exposed to certain sounds. The researchers argue that this is proof for a genuine medical disorder.

Termed misophonia, meaning “hatred of sound”, the condition is proposed to comprise an unusually adverse reaction to certain auditory stimuli. The sounds that trigger the reaction vary among individuals, but often relate to bodily functions such as chewing, slurping, snorting or snuffling. Other reportedly problematic sounds are associated with perceived potential injury, such as knuckles cracking or fingernails on blackboards. However, sufferers...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.