I don't have a lot of pet peeves, but if there's one thing that is guaranteed to drive me up the wall, it is noisy chewers.
Growing up with a dad and brother who always felt the need to let everyone around them know that they were gnawing on food, I always complained, but everyone else thought I was just being complicated.
It wasn't until recent studies found that the inability to stand loud chewing is an actual condition, that my family started to believe that I wasn't just being annoying.
Officially known as misophonia, this extreme sensitivity to common sounds more often than not triggers feelings of panic and rage in people who suffer from it.
According to Harvard Health, those who showed signs of misophia also had "much greater physiological signs of stress," such as increased heart rate and sweat. Researchers also revealed that the condition "usually appears around the age of 12" and since there isn't a lot of research on it yet, it "likely affects more people than we realize."
Now, another study about misophoia has emerged and its results are very concerning. Not only does the condition affect your mealtime, it can have an impact on another aspect of your life: information retention.
Published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal, the study's goal was to determine whether or not people with sensitivities to sounds like chewing have trouble learning.
So what's the verdict?
Turns out, those who suffer from misophonia do have a harder time absorbing and retaining information when they can hear a person making sounds they're sensitive to.
"Some people are especially sensitive to relatively subtle specific background sounds like chewing, and this sensitivity can be distracting enough to impair learning," said the study's co-author Logan Fiorella, an assistant professor of applied cognition and development at the University of Georgia.
Researchers analysed 72 college undergraduates, divided in two groups, by giving them each six minutes to learn about migraines. Once the time was up, they were tested on the material. Both groups performed well on the test, but when the scores were analyzed, those with sensitivity to sound, did slightly worse than those who weren't.
On the other hand, students with misophonia placed in the silent study room for the whole six minutes, did much better than the ones who were forced to study in the room where researchers chewed gum audibly.
One of the study's limitations is that it did not look at the impact background noise could have on sound-sensitive students while taking the test, but at the end of the day, it is important to recognize that overall academic performance is hindered by the condition.
Fiorella did note that the students who participated in the study did have severe cases of misophonia, so we should take into consideration that the extent in which learning ability is affected will vary from person to person.
These days, there are clinics across the country that are dedicated to the study of misophonia, and medical experts are starting to diagnose more and more people with the condition. However, if you'd like to know where you stand without taking a trip to a clinic, there videos online that will help you.
If you have misophonia and find it hard to concentrate when you're surrounded by "trigger" sounds, Fiorella suggests avoiding places with high levels of sounds of "people chewing, coughing, clicking pens, or rustling papers." She added, “When that’s unavoidable, some strategies suggested by other researchers include using earplugs, focusing on one’s own sounds, or using positive internal dialogue.”
If you're like me, I find that music, especially classical, helps drown out the trigger sounds and calm me down. Give it a try and see if it makes a difference.
Do you have misophonia? Let us know in the comments!