When a person hears a sound, the amygdala (the part of the brain that regulates emotions) decides the emotional response a person has to it. But why do certain sounds evoke such intense feelings of anger, irritation and in some extreme cases, even disgust?
Katie Ogden, Audiologist and Training Manager of ReSound North-West Europe, has compiled a list of the most hated sounds and gives insight into why these noises trigger such a strong response in certain individuals.
Eating and chewing
The sound of someone eating or chewing can trigger a negative response in many individuals, so much so, that it even has a name - Misophonia. But why do people find these sounds so frustrating?
People with Misophonia have stronger connectivity between the part of the brain that processes sound and the premotor cortex that controls the mouth and throat muscle movements. This means that those suffering find hearing chewing or eating irritating due to their sensitivity to it activating their own muscles.
Snoring is another sound Misophonia sufferers struggle to tolerate, however, the sound of snoring can also cause irritation to individuals in general, for a number of reasons.
First of all, a person’s hearing apparatus is designed to focus on sounds that are close by, making a person snoring nearby hard to ignore.
The second reason is that snoring is sporadic, making the speed and intensity impossible to predict, meaning you can’t lull yourself into a rhythm of listening to it.
Chalk on a blackboard
When it comes to the classic screeching sound of chalk scraping against a blackboard, the shape of a person’s ear canal could play a part in why the noise is so unbearable. Studies have shown that due to the shape of the ear canal, it amplifies certain frequencies to a painful volume, including high-pitched sounds like chalk on a backboard.
Often people find that the sound of a baby crying captures their attention in a way that very few other sounds do and associate the sound with a feeling of stress. The reason why the sound of a crying baby is impossible to ignore is because it activates the primitive parts of the brain that trigger the fight-or-flight response.
The sound of a dog barking can cause anger or irritation for a lot of people due to it being a repetitive, sharp and usually loud sound. Much like the sound of a baby crying, barking also evokes the fight-or-flight response within a person, making the sound difficult to ignore.
A car alarm can trigger a response of frustration in an individual due to its loud and repetitive sound. An average car alarm can hit 90 to 110 decibels, which is way above the 85dB threshold for safe hearing and cause physical pain to the ears, alongside emotional distress.
Sounds through hearing aids:
Katie says: “When a person suffering from hearing loss begins to use hearing aids the sound will not exactly replicate what they used to hear before hearing loss occurred. It will take some time to adapt, as everyday noises might appear very loud, or even familiar noises like their own voice might sound different to them.”
“It's always best to find the right hearing aid for you as a unique individual. All hearing aids will contain some level of technology that works to make loud or annoying sounds more comfortable.”
“How much comfort the hearing aid can offer will then depend on the specifications of the hearing aids, and this will often be a result of the level of technology in the device. The higher level of technology, the more the features in the hearing aid can do to give the most natural listening experience. Much like with the ReSound ONE with the M&RIE (Microphone & Receiver in Ear), which actually uses the unique shape of your ear.
“When purchasing hearing aids I would always recommend getting the best technology level you can within your budget that meets both your lifestyle needs and expectations. Your hearing care professional will take all of this information into account and will be able to offer the best advice for you and your hearing."