By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – Crunching chips like you’re personally angry at them. Chomping gum like it’s the consistency of a truck tire. Biting and screeching a fork against your teeth to remove any imaginary particles of food invisible to the naked eye.

Ahhhhh! Stop!

You’re killing those of us who suffer from misophonia.

Now wait, you say. Just because I smack my lips when I chew or sound like a cow working over its cud doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. You’re just too sensitive. And too quick to travel the road to irritation.

Well, science begs to differ. It turns out that those of us who can’t stand being within 100 yards of a bowl of tortilla chips or pretzels at a party are psychologically impaired.

New research from England analyzed the brain waves of people who say that a lunchroom sounds like a hyped-up casino or carnival. Or that soup-slurpers sound like Niagara Falls on steroids.

In our defense, it turns out the problem really is physical, not mental. We secrete stress hormones in response to a certain frequencies of sound … like loud chewing.

Researchers out 22 people with “chewing hypersensitivity” and 20 without into an MRI machine. They then played a variety of noises –all the way from honking horns, crying babies, jet engines … and loud eaters. Turns out no one was really bothered by the traffic noises or screaming kids. But the brain waves of the misophoniacs went wild when noises were played that sounded like loud eaters.

Neurons and brain cells firing. Stress hormones being released. In essence, a classic “fight or flight” response. The affected “sensitive” person is physically wired in a way to react to those chomping or crunching sounds.

This may help explain why I can listen to Lady Gaga blasting in the OR, but stresses when some staff members chew a piece of gum to mercifully moisten their mouths. It makes no sense. Or, ‘til now, it didn’t.

Frankly, though, the study is one of those “good news-bad news” deals.

The good news is that the problem is not all in our head, so to speak.

The bad news is that there is no cure.

Which means there are two possible solutions. We misophoniacs live in isolation forever, or learn to chill out.

Or you can stop clicking your pen in rapid fire hundreds of times because you are bored.

All we ask is mercy. Simple, silent mercy.

Thank you.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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