Diseases & Conditions

When everyday noises upset you

If the sounds of chewing, sniffling, heavy breathing, and the like really bother you, you might be dealing with misophonia. Here's how to cope with this surprisingly common condition.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch
  • Reviewed by Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor

photo of a woman holding her fingers in her ears to block out unwelcome sounds

Enduring a slurping spouse, joint-cracking colleague, or throat-clearing friend can be a sigh-inducing, eye-rolling experience. But the reaction goes beyond mere annoyance for people who respond to these everyday sounds — or others like snoring, sniffling, loud chewing, yawning, and heavy breathing — with agitation, rage, or disgust.

Their aversion is part of a strikingly common sensory processing disorder known as misophonia, which is characterized by an outsized emotional response to sounds others make. A study published online March 22, 2023, by the journal PLOS One estimates that nearly one in five adults deals with the condition, with women responding more intensely than men.

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About the Author

photo of Maureen Salamon

Maureen Salamon, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Maureen Salamon is executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later covered health and medicine for a wide variety of websites, magazines, and hospitals. Her work has … See Full Bio
View all posts by Maureen Salamon

About the Reviewer

photo of Toni Golen, MD

Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor

Dr. Toni Golen is a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, practicing in Boston. Dr. Golen completed her residency training at George Washington University Medical Center in 1995, and is an associate professor at Harvard Medical … See Full Bio
View all posts by Toni Golen, MD

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