I was chatting with a friend the other day about my absolute hatred of certain sounds. They don't just annoy me. The spark and uncontrollable physical reaction. Sometimes it is to the point where I cannot concentrate on anything else and I start to become agitated, and angry and basically try to do whatever I can to not have a complete meltdown. One of these sounds that I cannot stand is chewing gum. It turns out my friend had the same trigger. She then told me about misophonia. I then had a huge grin on my face because it is a condition that not many know about. I do know about it because I have written about it a few times and made some possible connections to the way people behave in paranormal investigations. So I felt inspired to revisit this again as it has been a few years. First, let's talk about what misophonia actually is.
It is defined as a literal hatred of a sound. It is also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome. It is something that is thought to first occur typically in late childhood and can then become worse as a person gets older. People may become extremely sensitive to a particular sound. It is not just any sound. The sound is something that is repetitive. It is not a loud bang or noise or sensitivity to how loud something is, but it is some sort of repetitive noise that triggers a person’s fight or flight response. The humming of a fridge for example could cause a person to start experiencing feelings of immense anxiety or even send them into a fit of rage. A person may be completely unaware they have this condition. Some people have only a very small list of triggers while others have a long list.
It all has to do with how the brain is processing the sound.
A small study from 2019Trusted Source suggests that misophonia may develop thanks to a hypersensitive connection between your auditory cortex and your salience network. The auditory cortex is the part of the brain that processes sounds, and the salience network is responsible for determining what sounds (and other stimuli) you pay attention to.
This irregular connection leads to increased activity in certain parts of your brain, which prompts the intense emotional response you experience.
A small 2021 studyTrusted Source linked misophonia to larger amygdala volume, along with irregular brain connectivity. The amygdala, if you were wondering, helps process emotions, including your reactions to things that frighten or threaten you. Researchers suggest your response to certain sounds may relate, in part, to the amygdala’s size.
It can be difficult to diagnose as a hearing test will often come back as normal. The reason is likely because it isn’t a problem with a person’s hearing, but more how the brain is interpreting these noises. When the brain picks up the signal of a sound it considers a trigger, it can make a person feel anxious, panicky, scared and even angry. It can range from mild emotions to those that are quite extreme. In any case, the experiencer is suffering from extreme discomfort. Immediately when I started looking at misophonia a few years ago, I couldn't help but make some comparisons with some behaviours I saw happening on paranormal investigations, typically with some individuals suddenly acting strange or even out of character. The more I started to observe, the more I wondered if in some of these cases the person was really suffering from a reaction to a sound from misophonia.
When you are on a paranormal investigation, you are often stuck in close quarters with a group of people, some of who are complete strangers to you for hours at a time. People can become tired, cold and irritated and you tend to get on each other's nerves. It is a normal part of investigating. People often experience a range of emotions during a paranormal investigation, and sometimes they have no idea where it has come from. It is then they start to wonder if something paranormal is manipulating their emotion and behaviour. While some people feel they could be channelling the feelings or energy of another person or even a spirit, I have seen on many occasions people come over with what they feel as immense rage which is later described as out of character and out of the blue from those who know them. They will often need to remove themselves from the area to calm down and they can become quite shaken as again it is something that is out of character for them. It is a feeling that can come from nowhere.
Studies have identified the following responses as symptomatic of misophonia:
- irritation turning to anger
- disgust turning to anger
- becoming verbally aggressive to the person making the noise
- getting physically aggressive with objects, because of the noise
- physically lashing out at the person making the noise
- taking evasive action around people making trigger sounds
Some people with this kind of sound sensitivity may start to mimic the noises that trigger their angry, aggressive reactions.
Simply thinking about encountering sounds that trigger their misophonia can make people with the condition feel stressed and ill at ease. In general, they may have more symptoms of anxiety, depression, and neuroses than others.
In addition to the emotional responses, studiesTrusted Source have found that individuals with misophonia commonly experience a number of physical reactions, including:
- pressure throughout the body, especially the chest
- muscle tightness
- increases in blood pressure
- more rapid heartbeat
- increases in body temperature
When looking at the above list, some of these are typically associated to those who feel they are being influenced or even possessed by a spirit. Some of the above would be quite alarming to come from nowhere and of course if you are on a paranormal investigation, you are likely looking for an experience. If you don't typically experience the above symptoms, it would be quite un-nerving for them to suddenly come on in the middle of a haunted location. As it is considered to be out of character and has literally come on from now where, it would cause a person to question where these feelings and emotions have suddenly come from. Is it a spirit making them feel this way? While this may be a possibility, other options such as misophonia should be explored.
While chewing gum is a popular one, the top response according to medical news today indicated that loud breathing or nose sounds, affected around 64.3% of those affected by misophonia. A paranormal investigation really serves as the perfect environment to trigger an episode. A group of people all crammed into a small room silently waiting for some sort of response. Every noise is amplified because you are sitting and waiting. It would be easy for the loud breather in the room to trigger an episode. Then of course you have the noise of devices like spirit boxes. Let's be honest, the repetitive static sweeping noise is irritating to the point that some people believe spirits don't like them because the sound is so offensive. It is no wonder that people use equipment to drown out that noise because it really can cause havoc on a person's brain.
While there are people who are aware of the condition will know that a certain sound can act as a trigger, what if a person has a really mild case and doesn't realise there is a sound that triggers them? What if the person is unaware completely of the condition and has these random episodes not knowing what is causing it? When we look at it from a paranormal experience point of view, a lot of locations that we investigate have very specific static sounds. What if being exposed to this same sound for an extended period of time can trigger a person's fight or flight response and cause them to have an episode? It could cause them to suddenly need to leave an area with extreme anxiety or become so angry they need to remove themselves. Similarly what if there is a sound they don't know is a trigger? Walking into a new room with a masked sound that they may not even be aware of could trigger a person to suddenly feel fear.
This of course does not explain all instances of a person suddenly feeling a certain emotion. I have experienced too much myself to say that it was all triggered by a noise, but it is something that we as investigators should at least look at and consider as an option. We know about infrasound and the effect it can have on people. With these in mind, it shouldn't come as a surprise that certain static sounds could trigger us without even knowing. A human is sensitive to all sorts of things, with sound being one of them. While we use it to aid our investigations, there are some aspects of sounds that can also work against us.
The next time someone has a reaction that seems to be out of the blue, look around and more importantly listen. Could there be a sound that has set something in motion? In any case, whether it is caused by something paranormal or an episode of misophonia, remove yourself from the situation and take some deep breaths.
Are you sensitive to certain sounds? Do you suffer from this condition?
Cover Photo https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-blue-denim-jacket-holding-a-megaphone-5935755/
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