Scientists Explain Why We Get Annoyed By The Sound Of Someone Eating

February 6, 2017

Eating

If you get annoyed, enraged or frustrated by the noise of someone eating, don’t worry – you are not alone. New study published in Current Biology shows that people who get infuriated by certain type of sounds (like eating, whistling, pen clicking) are not faking it or just being fussy.

It appears that their brains are actually hardwired to produce an excessive emotional response to particular noises.

Enter Misophinia

So far misophonia has been looked at as a condition that doesn’t have any basis in neurology, and it was described simply as a situation when people get annoyed by certain sounds.

However, new findings suggest that those suffering from misophonia are not merely annoyed by particular “trigger” sounds, but are in fact genuinely enraged or stressed by it.

The research involved brain scans on those with this condition and managed to find physical differences as to how the brains of misophoniacs are wired.

The scientists examined 22 participants by playing them a range of different noises while tracking their brains in MRI scanners. The sounds ranged from neutral (like rain), over unpleasant (like a baby screaming), to the individual’s trigger noise like loud eating sounds, sneezing, whistling…

Overdrive And “True Anger”

The results suggest that the region of the brain linking our senses with our emotions was connected differently in those with misophinia. Their emotions were sent into overdrive the moment they would hear their trigger noise. This is when they realized that these people didn’t just feel “annoyed” by the noises, they actually experienced:

  • genuine anger
  • hatred
  • threat
  • panic
  • stress

One of the subjects, Olana Tansley-Hancock, said the following in the interview for BBC News: “I feel there’s a threat and get the urge to lash out – it’s the fight or flight response. It’s not a general annoyance, it’s an immediate ‘Oh my God, what is that sound?’ I need to get away from it or stop it.’”

Some subjects even said they felt shame and embarrassment, and couldn’t control it.

“They are going into overdrive when they hear these sounds, but the activity was specific to the trigger sounds not the other two sounds,” explained Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, a co-author of the study. “The reaction is anger mostly, it’s not disgust, the dominating emotion is the anger – it looks like a normal response, but then it is going into overdrive.”

Though this is the first time misophonia has been proven and explained in an experiment, medical professionals are unfortunately still unable to treat it. That doesn’t really sound good.

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