We all age differently, and as my years have ticked on, I have developed a rather peculiar and venomous relationship with sound. I can spend entire afternoons hunting down flies, a rolled up magazine in one hand and vein throbbing in my neck, unable to rest until the maddening insect has been dealt with. The persistent buzzing drives me absolutely bananas, you see. Sadly old age also seems to have slowed my reflexes, because I’ll be damned if flies have always been this difficult to kill.
Other culprit sounds that enrage me include; the crying of babies, (notice how often babies cry in movies, series and adverts? I’ve heard it’s because the sound is universal, and will get the attention of almost any normal human being. For me it’s like nails on a blackboard,) dripping water, (which is a real issue when you’re also incapable of fixing a faucet,) and the absolute worst; the thumping of uninvited music.
Between these trigger sounds I often struggle to get a full nights sleep. A nearby university pumps out base heavy music on weekends, and keeping all my faucets from dripping has become an endless juggling act. It’s a fairly serious problem, and even as I sit here writing this blog, I’m fatigued, having been kept awake by a neighbours barking dog.
Realising this issue with sound was not a widespread phenomenon, at least not to the level I experience it, I did a little research and came up the word “misophonia.” (That’s an inability to filter out sounds, for all of you who are not walking dictionaries.) From what I can tell I must have the steroid version of this condition, and it seems only to be getting worse as time marches on and one personality quirk begins to merge with another.
You see, I tend to be a fairly calm and collected individual. That is, when not standing in queues, driving in heavy traffic, dealing with misleading Facebook articles, watching a particularly drawn out series, or realising I’m out of coffee. But, the wrong sound at the right time has begun to activate my “murder switches.” If a bonus-combo occurs, such as me standing in a queue and someone nearby cannot control their shrieking child, there is a good chance of me having to grit my teeth, wonder around the shopping centre for a few minutes, and return only after the child has left. And, if the shop happens to be especially crowded, I may just open fire with a shotgun and not stop until the twitching bodies cease to move. (Right. Like I could deal with the ear rupturing sound a shotgun produces.) That is to say, I’ve noticed the issue has started to affect my life beyond just the minor annoyance of sleep patterns.
So what can be done about this, I asked myself? How can I control my “murder switches” and avoid becoming the first mass murder who claimed he shot up a Pick N Pay because he “just couldn’t deal with the invasive sounds anymore?”
I searched around and came upon a few articles which suggested ways a person may compensate for disruptive or annoying sounds. Their suggestions included the following.
- Get a pair of headphones and play relaxing music, thus drowning out the annoyance.
Okay, fair idea. Only I would have to literally walk around 24/7 with a pair of headphones stuffed in my ears, which seems a little extreme. I also cannot hope to sleep with wires wrapped around my head.
- Soundproof my apartment.
Again, fair enough idea. Only, I don’t have an expendable few thousand laying around that may be blown on adding an inch of foam to all my walls.
- Get a bird and train it to sing sweet songs. (Seriously, they suggested it.)
I think that may worsen my situation by many degrees, not improve it. I don’t wish to be “that guy who shot his trained bird.”
- Communicate with neighbours about your issues with intrusive sound.
This one really got me thinking about just how severe my little dilemma is. I considered it; driving up the road and informing the university that their music keeps me awake. Would they have kept it down? Perhaps. But, for the solution to work to any real extent, I would also have had to inform the neighbours that their barking dogs keep me awake. Not just my adjacent neighbours, all my neighbours. Yes, my issue with sound is really that bad. And when I envisioned dozens of people taking their dogs inside every night, because the loopy guy up the road has trouble dealing with the sound of barking dogs, it really sunk as to just how screwed I am.
I came upon an article by an unknown doctor, with a not particularly popular website, living somewhere in West Africa. And it was here I got genuine insight.
It’s not the sound itself that enrages me, (most of the time,) it’s the invasion of my personal space by something beyond my control. And, more to the point, the inconsideration of the source of the sound, particularly if that source is a person. How can university students thump their music at 3AM, knowing they are in a residential area? I would not dream of playing loud music, aware of the possibility I might be keeping others awake. How can the owner of a dog let their animal bark at peak volume at 3AM, knowing it might be keeping others awake? How can a parent allow their child to go on a shrieking tantrum in the middle of a shop? The lack of empathy and consideration is enough to make my head spin. (Children are not that easy to control, Marc, for your information. Alright, but I don’t recall going on any shrieking tantrums, mid-shopping centre, when I was a child. Then again, I don’t have a child. So, let’s just sidestep this one for now…)
And that is the core of my misophonia; lack of consideration. Yes, it’s something different with flies and dripping water, but that I can control. A fly can be swatted, a faucet fixed. The lack of empathy from others is beyond my immediate control, and I honestly don’t feel I should even have to ask for it. It should be given, shouldn’t it? Isn’t that basic human courtesy? Or am I just a complete nutcase, asking too much of his neighbours and fellow human beings?
In all seriousness, I have found a few semi-effective solutions. Turning my fan on while I sleep helps. The sound is not altogether offensive, and it helps drown out intrusive audio from beyond my apartment. Avoiding shops when they are especially busy is also helpful, particularly Saturdays just after payday are a red zone.
Either way, I am honestly interested to know if there are others out there who deal with misophonia, have similar life challenges, and how they go about doing it. Drop an email via the “contact me” page, if you’d like. Perhaps together we can avoid the massacres more effectively.