Misophonia: Why Does Hearing You Chew Make My Skin Crawl?

It’s a basic necessity of life, we all need to do it, but, why does hearing you chew make me wanna jump out my skin?   Each bite you take, each time you chew your food, or swallow bothers me.  I’m crazy, right?

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It CANNOT be quiet when we eat.  If we eat in front of the TV to catch up on the events of the day after work, the volume goes up from 12 to 22 instantaneously, even if we are both eating.  If we have guests over for dinner, the record player is playing one of our favourite vinyls (and I’ve strategically positioned myself closest to the music).  Eating out is actually great – not just because I don’t have to cook but also because they always have on background music or other people’s conversations throughout the restaurant fill the air enough so I can’t hear you chew, but the loud music is also a distraction.

The worse is hearing people “sap” while they eat.  I don’t know if there’s a formal word for this, but, in my family (we’re French) we call it “sapping” — it’s the noise one makes when they smack while they eat. I remember when I was young my memere would say “arrête de sapper!!” (stop smacking!!).

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Heaven forbid someone is eating and I’m not!  Say, for example, you’re having a snack and we’re talking … oh goodness!  I’ll never say anything to you, because I recognize it’s just frigging weird of me to do so, but, inside it’s grating on my nerves. I’m staring down your snack trying to determine how much longer I have to listen to this.  The worst foods for this, of course, are the crunchy ones – like an apple, chips, celery etc.  If I don’t know you well or you’re basically not my family – I’ll never say anything rude whether you’re eating normally or you’re “sapping” I have said “are you almost done?” or “aren’t you gonna save some of that for later?”  That’s me trying to be slick in saying  “please hurry the f*ck up, I’m about to lose my sh@t here ” 😝. My family on the other hand, hears it ALL THE TIME! I feel crazy sometimes, I have to tell them “I can’t stand hearing you chew” and I have to get up and leave the room – and I’m irked, like my head is gonna blow off irked.

I have no ability to tune things out, and apparently, it’s a “thing” — but really, what isn’t a “thing” these days?  My weird affliction has a name – misophonia (aka selective sound sensitivity syndrome).  WebMD describes it as a “strong dislike or hatred of specific sounds”.  Ain’t that the truth – like nails on the chalkboard truth.  I always thought I was just easily annoyed, but now I know it is a particular brain thing.

Ok, so I can now put a name to my insane feelings of hearing people chew, but guess what?  The list goes on … I read through the list of common triggers, it makes total sense, it’s not just chewing – I have soooo many of these!

I’ve broken some of them into categories based on things I’ve seen online.

Mouth/Eating: chewing, crunching, gulping, gum chewing, kissing sounds, nail biting, silverware scraping teeth/plate, slurping, sipping, licking, smacking, spitting, sucking (ice, etc), swallowing, talking with food in mouth, lip smacking, grinding teeth, throat clearing and jaw clicking.

Breathing/Nasal/Vocal: breathing, sniffling, snorting, snoring, nose whistling, humming, muffled talking, nasally voices, overused words such as um or ah, soft whisper-like voices and whistling.

Environmental: clicking from texting, keyboard/mouse, pen clicking, papers rustling/ripping, ticking clocks

Utensils/metals: dishes clattering, fork scraping teeth, silverware hitting plates or other silverware and rattling change in pockets.

Body Movement related: Foot shuffling or tapping, finger snapping, foot dragging, flip flops, knuckle/joint cracking, nail biting and clipping, eating, chewing, fidgeting, jaw chewing/movement.

Now that I’ve gone and self-diagnosed myself off the internet, a lot of the triggers above ring true for me for sure.  And trust me when I say that people with misophonia are aware that the sounds that trigger them don’t bother most other people.

Depending on the severity your reaction may range from mild to severe.  You might feel: Anxious, Uncomfortable, The urge to flee, Disgust.

Or maybe if it’s a bit worse you feel: Rage, Anger, Hatred, Fear, Emotional distress, A desire to stop whatever is making the noise, Skin crawling.

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Personally, as someone who doesn’t have much impairment beyond the occasional spikeof extreme irritation – mine isn’t so bad compared to others.  Some aren’t able to carry on  a normal conversation, can’t socialize, work or have normal relationships.  I try to chalk it up to “holy crap, this sound is annoying the beejezus out of me” and in all honesty I’ve gotten into disagreements about it. For the most part however, I’m able to tolerate it for as long as I have to, if not I remove myself from the annoyance and I move on.  And, for that whole time your snacking on your yummy, I’m just waiting for the moment you take your last bite 🤯

~ When you hear someone breathing and you just can’t ask them to stop 😉 – Moi

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