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Switching off the radio, I turn to my husband and snarl: “I don’t know how you stand that racket.”
He sighs. Already this morning, I’ve ostentatiously left the room while he eats cereal (“It’s like an army marching on gravel”), banged on the neighbour’s wall to indicate displeasure at their son’s guitar practice and shouted “For goodness sake!” at the dustbin lorry groaning its way down the road.
My family wrote me off long ago as a misery, but research suggests there might be more to my hatred of noise than grumpiness.
I was recently on a train with a doctor friend. Noticing me shudder as a girl opposite crinkled her crisp packet, she asked: “How long have you been this sensitive to noise?”
“Oh, since childhood,” I told her. “I couldn’t bear it when people ate crisps near me on the school bus.”
“I think you have misophonia,” she said.
Like most people, I’d never heard of it. But as she outlined the symptoms, it became clear there is a medical name for my intolerance to intrusive noise.
Misophonia is a state of rage, panic and “extreme discomfort” brought on by exposure to certain patterns of sound. A survey on misophonia-uk.org, suggests “eating noises” are the worst offenders. Other triggers include tapping and music seeping from headphones.
Recently, I was on a train with my husband Simon when a man across the aisle started playing a game on his phone. Every so often there was a muffled beep. Simon noticed my rigid expression.
“What?” he asked, confused.
“Can’t you do something?” I said, flicking dirty looks at the offender.
“I can barely hear it,” he replied.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes misophonia. But hearing specialist Pawel Jastreboff says it can develop in childhood “when exposure to sound is linked with a strong negative emotional state”.
I can’t recall a particular event that might have triggered it, but as a young child I would drop things on the floor and then start screaming at the noise they made.
As I got older, I realised certain sounds sent me into a state of fury - gum chewing, table-leg kicking, people licking crumbs off their fingers and, worst of all, tea slurping.
In proximity to any of this, my whole body clenches into a tight ball.
But my misophonia doesn’t seem to apply to consistent, predictable noises such as traffic. I will happily listen to music of my choosing. It’s the sudden, unexpected, intrusive noise that’s a problem - and sadly, as yet, there’s no known cure.
But now I know what’s wrong, I’m doing my best to cope.
And for breakfast time, I might invest in a set of earplugs - to drown out the terrifying racket of toast-munching! - Daily Mail