Food Science

How Much Do You Hate the Sound of People Chewing?

February  6, 2017

For those who suffer from misophonia, a rare neural condition that corresponds to acute sound sensitivity, the sound of someone chewing isn’t a mere annoyance. Misophonia—literally, hatred of sound—results in near-paralyzing anger and anxiety. Your heart goes haywire; you sweat profusely.

For the past 17 years, the scientific foundations of misophonia, along with its credibility as a genuine disorder, were unproven. Most in the scientific community, along with society writ large, were skeptical of misophonia's validity as an actual ailment that called for rigorous treatment.

Last week, scientific journal Current Biology published the findings of a study conducted by researchers at Britain's Newcastle University in which scientists examined the brains of 20 participants with misophonia and 22 without. All participants were fed trigger noises, from loud crunching and heavy breathing, along with merely unpleasant noises, like the sound of wailing children. The trigger noises resulted in visible trauma in the misophonia sufferers, from hypertension to sweating; the unpleasant noises didn’t evoke the same reaction in them. Contrast this with the control group, who didn’t exhibit the same quantifiable distress after hearing those trigger sounds.

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The head researcher of the project, Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar, attributed misophonia's roots to the existence of traumatic memories from childhood. After numerous surveys, he gleaned that those who suffer from misophonia begin noticing the symptoms around the age of 12. For some, it's a disorder burrowed so deep that it prevents them from eating with family members or going to the movies. This study’s findings may only be the beginning of understanding misophonia's breadth and complexity. Kumar hopes that his team's conclusions will allow them to map out more precise causes for misophonia, and, ultimately work towards a solution.

Read the full report from Current Biology here. Do you suffer from misophonia? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Sue Torgerson
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    Stephanie Lynn Bruffett Dougherty
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


J February 17, 2017
I severely suffer from misophonia. I can't eat dinner with my family, can't be in a quiet environment when someone is chewing. I have to immediately block my ears. It's sometimes awful because people take it personally, but I always try and tell them that it has nothing to do with them, I just can't handle it. It makes me cringe and immediately feel intense anxiety. I'd love to be a part of a study like this because my symptoms are so severe.
Amy P. February 13, 2017
My sister has this to some extent - slurping, chips crunching, anyone chewing with their mouth open or smacking sounds. She will leave the room, or if she can't do that, she'll try to eat something loud (like chips) to drown out the sound of someone else's chewing (apparently it's not so bad if it's herself making the sound). It's frustrating for her but not debilitating, thankfully. As a result our family is a bunch of very polite eaters ;)
As far as I know she doesn't have any traumatic events in her childhood, but as her older sister maybe I whacked her on the head too many times as a toddler!
D February 10, 2017
This article resonates with me for sure! I can't stand the TV on too high and I'm constantly turning it down. I can't stand being around loud people, especially in a confined space. Is there any help for it?
Sue T. February 6, 2017
I don't think I agree with the researchers thoughts about suppressed traumatic memories. I think it's much more genetic. My Mom, my older sister, myself, a younger sister, a nephew, a niece (one each from each sister affected). The likelihood that each of us had the same reaction to some unknown childhood traumatic episode seems low. And the fact that we have three generations in our immediate family that are affected by it. The youngest showed signs by age 9 (approximately).
Anne February 6, 2017
Me too! Same exact situation here. Completely agree with you.
Stephanie L. February 6, 2017
I have this very thing. Listening to people chew or eat with the mouth open drives me wacky. I have gotten up and gone somewhere else to eat. Listening to people chewing popcorn in the movies is another stresser. The chewing of the I'm pooped corn is criminal. Now I know why.
Moshee February 6, 2017
I definitely have this but in a much less pronounced way. There are some people I just cannot eat with at all and movie theaters are almost unbearable to me - I guess that's why I have to sneak in snacks :) to drown them out. Thanks for this!!
Liz D. February 6, 2017
You write on the most interesting subjects...