Misophonia In Seniors, What It Is, Why It Happens, How It’s Treated

Aug 15 2018

Misophonia In Seniors, What It Is, Why It Happens, How It’s Treated

Misophonia is a strong, negative reaction to sounds. Miso ( hatred ) and Phonia ( sounds ), can be triggered by sounds like clicking a pen, a squeaky door, chewing food, or clearing your throat. Other sounds that irritate are certain pronunciations of particular sounds like p, k or s.

For example, here is a more comprehensive list of misophonic sounds that anger, irritate, and can trigger an episode:

They may vary slightly from person to person (a trigger for one person might not be for another).


  • Lip smacking
  • Loudly shuffling papers or erratically turning pages
  • People reading newspapers
  • Chewing
  • Crunching on an apple
  • Something dropping on the floor suddenly (like cutlery or a remote control)
  • The sound of a ring pull being pulled on a soft drink can
  • The sound of someone licking their fingers
  • Rustling of crisp packets or anything made of plastic
  • Heels clacking on floor
  • Irregular breathing (such as certain sighs or sharp intakes of breath)
  • Coughing
  • Cutlery being banged or scraped on a plate.






Misophonia: Reactions And Causes

Misophonia reactions are always negative and the person comes off as being unstable. For example, reactions can be:

  • Anxious
  • Uncomfortable
  • The urge to flee
  • Disgust

If your response is more severe, the sound in question might cause:


  • Rage
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Emotional distress
  • A desire to kill or stop whatever is making the noise
  • Skin crawling
  • Suicidal thoughts



Very little is currently known as to what and why this disease occurs. The current definition by the medical community is this one:

Misophonia, noun, “A  neurological disorder in which negative experiences, such as anger or disgust, are triggered by specific sounds”.


However, this might be missing the picture for the reason that this disease was first diagnosed and named in 2001.


And until now, the small body of research, still in its infancy, addresses four core issues:


  1. Specific symptoms
  2. Possible causes
  3. Overlaps with other disorders
  4. The extent to which the disorder impairs lives.


Classifications of disorders are usually based upon their underlying causes. Thus, if a disorder is caused by a neurological problem, we would say it is a “neurological” disorder.


However, in modern times it has become increasingly difficult to categorize disorders in this way because disorders usually overlaps, and causality is often unknown. This, of course, adds to the confusion.


Misophonia: Treatments

Reports of this disease start at the early teen age years (12-14 years old) and there are reported cases of seniors in their 80’s that have suffered for over 60 years with this disorder.


There are no treatments that actually work. Currently, there are no standardized measurements for misophonia, though some doctors recommend white noise sound generators to decrease the sufferer’s awareness of bothersome sounds.


In an attempt to do something, anything for sufferers, doctors will often prescribe treatment or medication for anxiety, depression or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).


Misophonia doesn’t seem to have much to do with hearing, aside from it being the sense that sparks the brain to remind the sufferer to be miserable. Often people with misophonia have perfect or even slightly better than normal hearing. There also appears to be a genetic component to the disorder as family members often share these issues.


It appears that treatments will have to be multifaceted. Audiologists will need to rule out hearing problems. Neurologists to study the brain connections. Psychologists to counsel sufferers and psychiatrists to prescribe (new) medications based on the latest research.


A recent study by scientists at at University College London discovered that the brains of sufferers are going into overdrive when they are exposed to trigger sounds. They found clear changes in the structure of the brain’s frontal lobe and also report changes in their brain activity.


Brain imaging revealed that people with the condition have an abnormality in the emotional control mechanism which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds. They also found this brain activity originated from a different connection pattern to the frontal lobe. This frontal lobe area is normally responsible for suppressing the abnormal reaction to sounds.


The trigger sounds also increased heart rate and sweating.



More research needs to be done to pinpoint where, why, and how misophonia is triggered.


Is it [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] OCD? Or is it related to other things, such as dementia in senior citizens?


For now, insurance companies do not recognize misophonia as a separate disorder. There is not even a diagnostic code for it. But the disease is real and more often than not, misdiagnosed.

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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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