I finally figured out my problem. I have misophonia. Or as Wikipedia defines it, “a hatred of sound.” Certain sounds trigger negative emotions, thoughts and physical reactions. One universal instance it is that urge to do bodily harm at the sound of fingernails scraping a chalkboard.
My first clue came as a college freshmen when a date took me to a basketball game. My roommate saw me from the other side of the gym and later commented, “You looked bored.” And probably, I was overwhelmed with the crowd noise and squeak of sneakers.
That was my last basketball game for many years. Sometimes I see a bit of a game when my husband watches it on TV. I prefer it on mute. I don’t need a commentator telling me that the player made a hook shot.
I reached my epitome of misophonia the day I supervised a high school pep rally. At the end, I dismissed my students, returned to my classroom, unlocked the door and threw my wad of keys across the room crying, “I hate pep rallies.” Too many drums, too much crowd noise and too many loud cheers. That was the last pep rally I attended.
My husband knows I am “noise sensitive” as my daughter calls it. Every time he fixes a cup of hot cocoa he stirs the cocoa powder into the fluid with a metal spoon that scrapes, scrapes, s-c-r-a-p-e-s until I yank the spoon away and thrust a small spatula into his hand. Sometimes, I choose a typical misophonic coping technique such as covering my ears or going to another room and turning on a noise blocking audio book.
Research found that 80 percent of the noise triggers for misophonia center around eating. I identify with that trigger and understand precisely why restaurants play background music. It blocks out the sound of crunchy chips, silverware clanking against plates and the slurping of the last remnant of milk shake.
Life is noisy. I can’t stop the world from eating, playing games, opening a cellophane package or just breathing. So, I endure or leave when noise overwhelms me.
I did not realize how much I liked silence until I began working at the newspaper. The first week, as I typed away at my computer I could almost hear a couple of conversations across the room in another department. The editor sitting next to me rolled his eyes. He huffed and he puffed. Then like any person with misophonia he stood up, looked across the room and said, “Quieter!”
That was too noisy? Bless him, I had found the perfect work environment, a place where I met others with misophonia. Which makes sense. Researchers from Northwestern University found that those who are hypersensitive to particular sounds tend to be more creative than those who are not.
If silence is golden, I should be rich. I raised five sons and a daughter in a quiet home. For years we had no TV and rarely turned on the radio. When a son began buying recordings of popular music to play on his cassette player, I tolerated all but a couple. For those I said, “Please, play that in the bedroom with the door closed.”
Some studies say misophonia tends to appear more in girls than boys and that sufferers are also more likely to have tinnitus. I resemble those remarks. In a totally silent house, I hear a high pitched whine. Perhaps that constant whine wears away my tolerance for any additional noise. For sure it insures I will never be rich because I never experience total golden silence.