Many children living with sensory processing disorder or ASD react differently to sound. That kind of response is common among those on the autism spectrum. The details of that aversion matter when it comes to identifying the cause and possible treatments. The aversion may or may not be an instance of misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome.
What is Misophonia?
Misophonia is an emotional reaction to specific sound triggers. While you may feel this is an experience you have had or recognize in your child, it is important to distinguish this diagnosis from other conditions. Misophonia causes people to feel anxious, fearful, panicked, disgusted, or to have the desire to flee, in reaction to specific sounds. The trigger is usually an oral sound, like yawning or chewing, or a repetitive one, like tapping a pencil against a desk.
Other Auditory Conditions Not to Be Mistaken for Misophonia:
- Hyperacusis - sensitivity to sound volume
- Phonophobia - fear of sound in general
While hyperacusis and phonophobia are often noted in people with ASD, misophonia occurs in people who may or may not have another diagnosis. Those living with sensory processing disorder may also react to certain stimuli, both auditory and otherwise; again, this is not the same as misophonia.
What are the Symptoms of Misophonia?
For most people, sounds of eating, yawning, breathing, and typing fade into the background. People with misophonia often react angrily, or become very stressed, when in proximity to these sounds. They may feel an urgent need to leave the area. Because these kinds of sounds are everywhere, the condition can have a substantial impact on an individual's way of life.
Where Can I Get Help?
There is no specific cure for misophonia, but some therapies may help. They include auditory distraction, such as listening to white noise or wearing headphones. Cognitive behavioral therapy may also improve an individual's response to the triggers. Some individuals set up "safe zones" in their homes, where they can be protected from the sound triggers.
For many people, finding a way to live with misophonia begins by recognizing their individual triggers. Then, they can take steps to improve their overall life through therapy or use of other kinds of intervention. If your child is affected, you can discuss her situation with other adults in her life, in order to provide the safest and most supportive environment possible at home and school.