There was Adele waiting at the bus stop on her way to work. The bus was running late and she knew she would be late for her first meeting of the day. Adele works in a busy public sector organisation. The bus finally comes. She hops on and gratefully finds a seat. As she sits down, she thinks through her day ahead and makes a mental list of what she has to do. Out comes her phone and headphones, so she can listen to her favourite songs.
The man in front of her has a cold and can’t stop sniffing and sneezing. Beside her, an older man is tapping his foot. She remembers not so long ago, she would’ve been in a cold sweat by now if she was in this situation. The man in front of her is being a little disgusting. He should blow his nose properly. But she is aware that this is a normal response in that situation and laughs quietly to herself. It’s not misophonia causing that thought. Not bad, she thinks. It doesn’t seem that long ago, her existence was consumed by her misophonia, her reaction to certain sounds.
Adele first contacted me after she read a newspaper story about Misophonia in September 2016. She was unsure if anything could be done. She hoped it could.
She was finding it difficult to focus at work as she worked in an open plan office with lots of cubicles and minimal acoustic privacy. The guy across from her was always sniffing. And her boss would talk to her and click his pen all the time. Catching the bus to work each day was an ordeal that left her exhausted and stressed before she even got to work. She liked her work.
The crunch came when she met her new partner. Adele liked him a lot. At first, she could ignore his daily noises of breathing, that sound he made as he ate a potato chip, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore them. It was hurting their relationship especially when she told him to improve his manners and eat more quietly.He wasn’t impressed. And on top of it, Adele was not getting enough sleep, as she found herself waiting for him to make one of those sounds.
“I’ve tried to change, to see it from their point of view.”
“I see how it hurts those around me when I reject them or am repulsed by their sounds. Even if they understand, they still make those sounds.”
“I get this feeling in my chest that makes me feel sick. I want some control back not to react like this. “
“I’m not convinced it is possible to change.”
“ I know… I don’t want it to get worse!”
Adele was feeling desperate. It had become too much.
Our first consultation was spent:
There were only 3 activities in her initial treatment plan. They were implementing the principles of sound enrichment in her life, purchase and watch my “Accepting Sounds” film for 3 minutes a day and restart an exercise program which she knew made her feel better.
We agreed to review progress over time. A 20 to 30 minute Skype consultation every 3 to 4 weeks. We both didn’t know how long it would take, it takes over 90 days to change a habit. And rewiring our brain is influenced by so many aspects of our life. It was about little steps taken one at a time on a regular basis.
That was 4 months ago. Adele’s journey has had its ups and downs as expected. The first thing she noticed after 5 weeks of watching the film daily was on a long weekend with her boyfriend she became aware there was no longer reaction or waiting for the possibility that he might make those sounds that affected her so much.
As an admitted sceptic, she was not sure that anything was happening. However, the pain of the past kept her persevering and keeping in contact with me.
There were many aha moments over that time. My favourite quote of Adeles’ was:
“How do you know if you are noticing those sounds if you are not noticing them anymore?”
I reassessed Adele recently and she was amazed by the change that had happened. She couldn’t remember what was said in the initial questionnaires. And found it hard to know if there was any change. It had happened so gradually. The results of last assessment showed her misophonia had gone from severe to a mild to normal classification.
I’m sharing Adele’s story as it helps explain so many aspects of my treatment approach to misophonia. This is not an isolated story. It’s about applying solutions that focus on the individual and applying the principles of neuropsychology and audiology.
By following some simple steps, Adele did shift her responses to those sounds that annoyed her so much before. Her reaction to those sounds had gone from intolerable to being a minor annoyance.
Do you want to know more about my approach and how it is used to provide a treatment for misophonia?
I’d love to hear your comments about this post. It is meant to make you think. What questions come up for you when you read this?
Nolene Nielson is an experienced Australian Audiologist who is passionate about Misophonia. This article was first published at hearingcareprofessionals.com.au.