I work in a large open-space office, where we all get a desktop and not much else, right next to each other. So everything is easily passed along from desk to desk—like germs, loud phone conversations, and the perils of eating at your desk. If you have tuna salad or something, you risk offending everyone smell-wise, and if you have something super-crunchy, you risk offending everyone sound-wise. I assume if I was a super-loud chewer, my husband or someone would have told me by this point. But when I chew something and I’m wearing headphones, I fear I sound like Lily on How I Met Your Mother.
Turns out, I may be right about offending certain people. NPR ran a piece this week on misophonia, or “When Life’s Noises Drive you Mad.” If you are over-the-top annoyed by other people’s smacking and chewing, you may have this condition, which “is characterized by intense emotion like rage or fear in response to highly specific sounds, particularly ordinary sounds that other people make.” NPR says that mouth sounds are common triggers, as are nose sniffles, throat-clicking, and pen clicks.
Although misophonia technically means “hatred of all sounds,” researchers point out that people who have it are only irritated by certain sounds (granted, I can’t imagine anyone not being annoyed by pen clicks). One small study connected the disorder to certain patterns of brain activity, but more research is needed for misophonia sufferers. In the meantime, I promise to try to keep it down as much as possible.