When the Parent Has Misophonia.

Four Tips to Help You Deal, Including a New Therapy.

Misophonia is defined as a “hatred of sound”, a neurological condition in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses. If a parent suffers from this condition, their role can be very challenging, especially if they are caring for very young (noisy) children. 

As there is currently no definitive “cure” for Misophonia, here are four tips to help parents deal with their extreme sensitivity to sound.

  1. Use barriers to sound. 
  2. Find a quiet space. 
  3. Get therapy.
  4. Tell your kids about your Misophonia.

Skip to New Therapy.

My son is 4 years old and he is a loud talker. So much so, we thought there might be something wrong with his hearing. There isn’t. 

As a Misophonia sufferer, I get triggered by most loud sounds. Tv’s, Music, vehicles, talking and whining are the key contenders. 

Now, my son has become my biggest trigger. Aside from his volume, I think this is due to the fact that we are always together and I have to keep him alive and thriving while his dad works all the time. 

Pre-pandemic, things were manageable. There were small degrees of separation found in playgroups and activities but that relief no longer exists. 

I’m constantly trying to stop myself from “shushing” him. It’s not his fault that I’m often his sole companion and I don’t want to give him a complex over expressing himself just because I have an issue with sounds. 

Tom Dozier, a behavioural scientist and author of the book Understanding and Overcoming Misophonia, 2nd edition: A Conditioned Aversive Reflex Disorder, explains that;

“Misophonia can be and often is devastating to close relationships. It causes children to avoid parents. It causes divorce.”  – Tom Dozier

So, I’ve had to do my research and get busy with coping.

1. Do Earplugs and Other Barriers to Sound Work with Misophonia?

I definitely rely on ear plugs and white noise to block out my triggers. MInd you, I don’t use them in such a way that I can’t hear my son if he needs me. I just use them to bring things down to a dull roar. I’ll even wear one in just the ear facing the offending sound at dinner for example.

I find any foam earplugs work, I get them from the drugstore and I like the mynoise app for white noise.

What is important to remember about using barriers to sound is that if you use them too often, you could decrease whatever resiliency you have and become even more sensitive – making things worse in the long run. Use them only when you really need to.

2. Seek out Quiet Time. 

Easier said than done right? As a parent it can be so hard to find some quiet time and space. I struggle with it for sure. I find that even if I can get 15 minutes during the day to just escape sensory stimuli, I feel a lot better. Never did I imagine sitting in my locked bathroom while playing music on my phone could be such a luxury retreat.

3. How do you Treat Misophonia?

If you search Google for Misophonia treatment, you’ll see the same few methods scattered through the search results.

Here’s a typical list taken directly from soundrelief.com:

  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): TRT helps rewire the brain to reduce the reactions to trigger sounds. It combines sound therapy with directive counseling over 12 to 24 months. Pleasant sounds are actively listened to and the patient is taught to create positive associations with trigger sounds through practice and intentional rethinking. Although primarily used to treat people with tinnitus and hyperacusis, TRT has also proven successful in treating people with misophonia. The goal for misophonia patients is to achieve extinction of the conditioned reflexes that are causing distress.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Commonly used in conjunction with TRT, this form of therapy attempts to alter the negative thoughts of the misophonic person to decrease the person’s suffering. The healthcare provider works to pair triggering sounds with positive experiences.
  • Medications: Most healthcare providers prefer not to treat misophonia with medications because they can be habit forming or have other negative side effects.
  • Lifestyle Changes: The Misophonia Association lists some lifestyle changes that may help reduce the effects of misophonia: vigorous exercise, a healthy diet, a regular sleep schedule, sound protection (when needed), misophonia support groups, and family counseling.

New Hope for Misophonia Sufferers – the “Safe and Sound Protocol”

People have found significant relief using the above methods and they are a great place to start. However, another kind of auditory therapy that has been attracting attention since 2011 and is producing amazing results for anxious sufferers.

I was recently introduced to the work of Dr. Stephen W. Porges, when my psychotherapist recommended his book The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory. The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, as a resource for treating my ptsd.

Dr. Porges’ “Safe and Sound Protocol” is used to treat trauma and anxiety and upon further researching its applications, I learned that it is also used to treat Misophonia!

A happy participant in the Safe and Sound Protocol

Brian Esty, a California based LMT and a practitioner of the Safe and Sound Protocol describes the process much better than I could. Bear with me here, it’s a bit long but it’s important information!

“The SAFE AND SOUND protocol resets the middle ear to the range of frequencies that mammals use for social engagement, which are at a higher frequency band than that which animals utilize for threat monitoring (imagine the sound of a running predator). 

Resetting the ear for sensitivity to these social engagement frequencies concurrently resets our foundational neurology away from protective vigilance. We experience this vigilance in a myriad of ways that at their core are related to an ongoing feeling of being unsafe, and which express as reactive anxiety and/or anger. 

The idea that this primal neurology can be accessed as easily as by listening to a few hours of music is radical, and without personally experiencing this, as well as positive reporting from every client, I would be skeptical. However, after using it on myself, I am of the mind that this is likely the most significant new therapeutic tool to emerge in the last decade.”

Both for myself and many of my clients, it has seemed that no amount or type of therapy could get at the underlying, “unconscious” aspect of anxious dread that persists as a consequence of traumatic experiences. 

Both in my experience, and that of the clients of mine who have used this protocol, this unconscious “frozen” aspect of self has begun to thaw. For myself, this has resulted in access to attributes of myself, particularly in the realm of social engagement, that I almost despaired of ever being attainable.”

Brian Etsy, LMT.

I have not personally tried the Safe and Sound Protocol yet, but I am planning on it and will post about my experience on this blog.

If you are interested in learning more, check out these videos and google “Safe and Sound Protocol” practitioners in your area.

4. Should you Tell your Kids About your Misophonia?

As long as they are old enough, to understand even a little … I would say, yes. 

My son is four years old and I’ve started telling him that I am sensitive to noises and that there is nothing wrong with his talking. It is just something Mom is working on fixing. 

I try to explain at his level that sometimes ears get tired and sometimes they need a break from their job of listening.

I tell him not to worry about how loud he is and asked him if I could tell him when my ears need a break sometimes.

He was actually very receptive and compassionate to the idea and seemed relieved to know why I ask him to be quieter than I probably should.

Are There any Benefits to Misophonia?

I love the following excerpt from an article written by Rachel S. Schneider about those with Sensory Processing Disorder SPD (pretty sure it applies to Misophonia too). 

I struggle to feel like a good parent when I seek shelter from the sound of my kids’ voice and thinking about myself as especially creative and resilient in this makes things a lot easier.

“People with SPD are often sensitive and intuitive. We care deeply about the human experience because we know all too well how it feels to be misunderstood, uncertain, and anxious about living in the skin we’ve been given. We’re open to differences because we, ourselves, are different.

We’re often eager to be supportive, as the support and love from others have helped us get this far in our lives. We live in a world that isn’t built for us, and yet we can be creative enough to find ways to live well within our parameters. We’re some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet. Who wouldn’t want us for parents?”

Rachel S. Schneider

There we have it. Four ways to cope with Misophonia as a parent. Hopefully something helps!

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