Common Sounds Cause Uncontrollable Anger For Misophonia Sufferers

(CBS) — Chewing, sniffling, breathing, they’re just everyday noises, but for some people they can cause uncontrollable anger.

It’s called misophonia. More doctors are recognizing it and more patients are being diagnosed.

Many common sounds are known as “triggers” for Paul Tabachneck.

“When someone cracks their knuckles around me, it feels like getting punched in the face,” he said.

The snap of a lighter can cause an intense reaction.

“Flick snick, I’ll grab it from them,” he said.

Or this: “Would you please stop crunching your ice for God sakes you lunatic.”

Even a pen click can send him into a rage.

Tabachneck has had misophonia, defined as a hatred of sound. There are a growing number of people who are being diagnosed with it, but it’s still largely a mystery.

“It’s a neurologic cross wiring, we don’t know exactly what caused it,” said audiologist Dr. Melanie Herzfield.

Simple every days sounds can cause sufferers to experience extreme emotional reactions and sometimes even physical pain.

“Our neural mechanism has made it so that if there is a sound we don’t like, there is a coping strategy,” Dr. Herzfield said. “Their neural mechanism has made it so they don’t have that coping strategy.”

“I got to have something that cancels out the noise,” Tabachneck said.

Like most people who have it, Tabachneck has been suffering since he was a child.

“I had a reputation for a long time for being very difficult,” he said.

Using ear buds to block sounds has helped him and one thing that he can handle is music.

Paul Dion says he also finds an escape in music, but as a misophonia sufferer, he also finds misery in every day sounds.

“Like sneezing coughing chewing. Those are the types of things I can only hear for a few seconds before I react very strongly.”

There is no cure, but exposure therapy, white noise machines and meditations can bring relief to many along with medication.

“And so coping strategy is really the answer to everything they’re going through. They really have to know how to survive,” Dr. Herzfield said.

About 80 percent of people with misophonia can get some relief when they seek treatment.

More from Rob Johnson

Watch & Listen LIVE