If The Sound Of People Chewing Annoys You, Here's The Unique Way Your Brain Processes Things

You may just be a genius.

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You're in a darkened movie theater in the middle of an especially exciting and interesting film, but all you can focus on is the person behind you, who's chewing loudly on their popcorn. The popcorn chewer finishes up, but now it seems like the woman next to you is the loudest nacho-eater on the planet.

You spend the rest of your time until the movie ends feeling absolutely enraged by the sound of chewing and in disbelief that people can be so rude and ill-mannered. You should have just stayed home with Netflix like you usually do for this exact reason.


If this experience sounds familiar, you may have a condition known as misophonia.

What is misophonia?

Misophonia is defined as "a condition in which one or more common sounds (such as the ticking of a clock, the hum of a fluorescent light, or the chewing or breathing of another person) cause an atypical emotional response (such as disgust, distress, panic, or anger) in the affected person hearing the sound."

People with misophonia have an extreme dislike or hatred of specific sounds. It should be noted that people with misophonia don't hate all sounds; rather, they are highly sensitive and easily irritated by certain sounds that will trigger strong emotional or physiological responses — the specifics of which vary by individual.


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These responses could be perceived as "unreasonable given the circumstance," according to WebMD, but is subject to the opinion of those who are experiencing these feelings.

Mild symptoms for people with misophonia include feelings of anxiety, discomfort, the urge to leave, or disgust, while more severe symptoms could result in rage, anger, hatred, panic, fear, and emotional distress.


This condition has yet to be widely studied, is not currently classified as a psychiatric or medical disorder, and does not yet qualify for a diagnosis under the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Regardless, research does indicate that the symptoms experienced by people with misophonia are real. Many say their symptoms began when they were somewhere between the ages of 9 to 13.

The team behind one study at the University of Amsterdam Academic Medical Center's Department of Psychology identified this list as the most common trigger sounds:

  • Eating-related sounds like lip-smacking (81%)
  • Loud breathing or nose sounds (64.3%)
  • Typing on a keyboard or pen-clicking sounds (59.5%)

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But while the condition can certainly be distressing, there is some good news for those who have it.

Is misophonia a sign of intelligence and creativity?

Psychologists believe the way people with misophonia process sensory information could be strongly linked to divergent thinking and real-world creative achievement.

This means a hypersensitivity to sound may actually be a key to better understanding the genius of people like Charles Darwin, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, and Marcel Proust — each of whom is believed to have had misophonia.

Lead scientist Darya L. Zabelina Ph.D., explains that a particular type of atypical attention — leaky sensory gating — fosters creativity because it reduces the ability to ignore "irrelevant sensory information."


"Real-world creative achievers," she says, "appear to have reduced filtering of sensory information, which may be the mechanism for their wider focus on a larger range of stimuli, and their ability to make connections between distantly related concepts or ideas."

Researchers are only beginning to fully understand the brain activity behind misophonia, but early data suggests a hyperconnectivity between the auditory system and the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and smell.

Given that many people diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and Tourette Syndrome also experience hypersensitivity to sound, possible connections and reasons for overlap with these disorders are still being explored.

According to research by Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar from Newcastle University, people with misophonia suffer from "an abnormal type of communication between the brain's hearing center, the auditory cortex, and the areas of the ventral premotor cortex that are responsible for the movement of the face, mouth, and throat."


When it comes to dealing with misophonia, naturally, creative thinking is required. People who suffer from misophonia must think outside the box when coming up with ways to filter out annoying sounds.

Perhaps, the next time you're deeply annoyed that your co-worker or spouse is making a ridiculous amount of noise chewing their granola bar right next to you, try reminding yourself that you're a creative genius and they, unphased by your own popcorn crunching, are obviously not.

RELATED: People Who Are Easily Distracted Are Creative Geniuses, Says Science

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.