Sound Rage – My Story
Can NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Help with Misophonia?
“Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome [or sound rage], starts with a trigger. It’s often an oral sound — the noise someone makes when they eat, breathe, chew, yawn, or whistle. Sometimes a small repetitive motion is the cause — someone fidgets, jostles you, or wiggles their foot”. WebMD
If you suffer from misophonia, you may respond to certain sounds with uncontrollable feelings of rage, anger, hatred, panic, fear, emotional distress, a desire to kill or stop whatever is making the noise, skin crawling, suicidal thoughts… For some people the triggers can also be visual, olfactory and/or textile.
When I first became a NeurOptimal® trainer in early 2013, a fellow trainer mentioned to me that among other things, he believed the brain training might help make living with misophonia easier. That was the first time that I had ever heard the word so I asked for an explanation. As he described it a realization came over me that he was describing a condition that I had suffered with since I was a child. Until then, I thought I was alone in this crazy affliction. I wouldn’t wish this misery on anyone, but there was some sense of relief in the discovery that there were others out there who actually understood what I was dealing with. The idea that I had a tool in my possession that might resolve my lifelong affliction was thrilling, but I was skeptical.
I have suffered with misophonia since I was nine years old, from what I now understand that is a typical age of onset. My brother learned to whistle about that time and quickly discovered that he could literally torture me just by whistling. Not only that, but he would look completely innocent while I devolved into a raging Tasmanian devil for no apparent reason. As evil 10 year old siblings tend to do, he took advantage of pushing this button frequently for his amusement.
For many people with misophonia, chewing noises are the primary or initial trigger. I remember only having the intense reaction to my grandfather’s chewing – somehow he seemed louder and more wet sounding than anyone else. I loved him dearly and just dealt with it on the few occasions that we would eat together. Over the years, I developed many more triggers – all high pitched noises, singing, whistling, loud mouth noises some people make when chewing or swallowing, repetitive sounds of any kind, continuous dog barking, bird chirping, large machinery/vehicles idling, repetitive motions such as hand motions (people who rub their leg or chin, hair twirling etc), the noise made by appliances and fluorescent lights, pen clicking, clock ticking, etc.
We aren’t talking simple irritability here; we are talking about rage, a full blown debilitating fight or flight response to these sounds. For most of my life I carried earplugs with me everywhere for survival (my own or that of the person making the offending noise). At times, I literally felt like I might hurt someone if the noise didn’t stop.
Training with NeurOptimal® is “diagnostic agnostic” meaning that while all brains benefit, we don’t need a diagnosis and we dont do anything differently for someone who has ADHD or Misophonia or any other issue. We don’t “treat” any disorder, but when the brain gets feedback about itself, many issues tend to drop away. After 50+ NeurOptimal® sessions I had noticed many amazing improvements in my life. I stopped getting the fight or flight physical reaction as a response to sound stimuli; it was more of a strong irritation, and some days I could even deal with it for short periods so my symptoms had diminished but they were not completely gone.
Somewhere after around 150 sessions (and 2+ years) of NeurOptimal®, my husband started making comments like “I can’t believe you are allowing this noise to continue” or “How can you stay in here and work with that noise going on?” Over the years he has become very aware of my triggers, so he is the one who noticed that I was no longer reacting to sounds that would have been intolerable previously. I am proud to say that I have gone over a year without wearing earplugs and with zero triggers (I know this because the last box I purchased when I moved my office over a year ago is still in the desk drawer unopened).
2+ years and 150+ sessions is quite a lot. I had given up on the idea that this could help my misophonia any more than it had after 50 sessions but I continued to train because I enjoyed the sessions and I felt like it was keeping my brain firing on all cylinders. The shift was so gradual and seamless that I didn’t even realize the condition had resolved until my husband pointed it out!
Research that came out in February 2017 indicates that misophonia is caused by a difference in the way the brain is wired (see links below) …Apparently after 35 years my brain has re-wired itself and that is just pretty darn cool.
- Time Magazine Feb 2017: “scientists looking at brain scans of misophonia sufferers found changes in brain activity when a ‘trigger’ sound was heard. Brain imaging revealed that people with the condition have an abnormality in their emotional control mechanism which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds. The researchers also found that trigger sounds could evoke a heightened physiological response, with increased heart rate and sweating.”
- BBC News: “One idea is that low levels of targeted electricity passed through the skull, which is known to adjust brain function, could help.” Um, no thanks! I will stick with non-invasive NeurOptimal® brain training
- CTVNews: “The results were clear, says Kumar. In misophonics, the trigger sounds “evoked a much larger response in the part of the brain called anterior insular.” That part of the brain is involved in processing emotions and integrating signals both from the body and the outside world. Researchers then discovered that in misophonics the anterior insular is connected in a different way to parts of the brain in the frontal lobe that govern control of emotions than in those without the condition.”
NeurOptimal® is not a treatment for misophonia or any other disability or medical condition; it is a tool for relaxation and self-optimization. People who suffer with misophonia often experience a worsening of symptoms/sensitivity when they are also experiencing anxiety and stress. NeurOptimal® training can help people to feel more calm in otherwise stressful and challenging environments.
My story is an N=1; your results will likely vary. We cannot predict the outcomes of training for any individual and we make no claims of “treating” any “disorder”. We can say that NeurOptimal® training is enjoyable, effortless, relaxing, non-invasive and carries no risk.