Q: The sounds are incredibly awful! What can I do to block them out?

A: OSHA, audiologists, and physicians all encourage people to wear hearing protection when around loud noise. Whether in a factory at work or in loud music from a radio or at a concert, loud noise can and will damage your hearing. It is always recommended that people wear hearing protection in loud noise to protect their hearing.

When someone with misophonia hears sounds that cause irritation, anger, and extreme anxiety, initial reaction is to cover your ears — with your hands, with earplugs, or with headphones — and perhaps drown out the trigger sounds with pleasant music. Hearing protection provides a feeling of security and safety. You may even be able to relax for a little bit and quit searching for trigger sounds in the area.

What makes sense in one way actually conflicts with the way the brain processes sound, which directly contradicts the use of hearing protection for misophonia. It has become evident that when sound levels are decreased in the peripheral ear, the central auditory system actually increases the levels of sound within the brain. Wearing hearing protection to reduce the volume of sound causes the brain to try to increase the volume.

While trigger sounds are decreased in volume, the emotional reaction is increased. Sounds become more intense and increase in number over time when hearing protection is worn. Treatment of misophonia, then, must somehow cushion the impact of trigger sounds without reducing the volume of the sounds.