The sound of chewing is one of the most highly ranked pet peeves people have. It has been known to drive some people to change seats, or even carriages, to get away from it, but why is this? Keep reading to find out.
In 2021, police officers were called to a shared accommodation in West Sussex after reports that a fight had broken out over someone chewing too loudly.
The news was shared on Twitter by police inspector Darren Taylor: “Team attended a somewhat tense situation yesterday in [Burgess Hill] as two tenants in shared accommodation were reported to be fighting each other…due to one of them eating their food too loudly?”.
It sounds like unserious grounds for a fight, but the truth is that some people can get extremely irritated by the sound of chewing. It could even drive them to violence or lashing out at the perpetrator in extreme cases.
The reason may be due to misophonia, which, according to the NHS, is a hearing sensitivity evident in people who get angry because of sounds. To be clear, this differs from if some sounds make you anxious, which might be phonophobia.
The sound of chewing is one of many that people find slightly irritating or uncomfortable. A study carried out by Curry’s PC World in 2021 surveyed 3,001 people across the UK, and found loud chewing was the most hated sound by 49 percent of respondents. Almost 55 percent of women said it was their least favorite sound, while it was the most irritating to 43 percent of men.
The sounds made by fingernails scraping on a chalkboard, repetitive sniffing, or water dripping are a few other examples of such aggravating sounds.
For the majority, it is a minor inconvenience, and even though it causes some annoyance, is not terrible enough to upend their daily lives.
However, for others, those sounds can trigger a strong emotional or physical response in a condition known as misophonia.
“Individuals with misophonia experience intense emotional and behavioral reactions to certain sounds related to eating, sniffing, breathing, slurping, burping and some other repetitive man-made noises, known as the trigger sounds,” Dr. Hashir Aazh, a specialist in misophonia rehabilitation, said.
One study, published by researchers at Newcastle University, compared brain scans of people with misophonia with those without.
The results showed that people with misophonia have what is known as a “super sensitised” connection between the auditory cortex and the motor control areas related to the face, mouth, and throat.
Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, a research fellow at the university that led the study, claimed the findings showed that this connection activates something called “the mirror system,” which helps us process movements made by other individuals by similarly activating our own brain.
He said: “We think that in people with misophonia involuntary overactivation of the mirror system leads to some kind of sense that sounds made by other people are intruding into their bodies, outside of their control.
“Interestingly, some people with misophonia can lessen their symptoms by mimicking the action generating the trigger sound, which might indicate restoring a sense of control. Using this knowledge may help us develop new therapies for people with the condition,” he added.
So there you have it, folks. Anybody could dislike loud chewing but misophonia is what could drive some to want to punch you in the face for doing it.