B3542 - Sensory Sensitivity Misophonia Hyperacusis and Tinnitus - 10/06/2020

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Julia Simner | University of Sussex (United Kingdom)
Dr Louisa Rinaldi, Prof. Jamie Ward, Dr James Alvarez, Ms Rebecca Smees
Title of project: 
Sensory Sensitivity: Misophonia, Hyperacusis and Tinnitus
Proposal summary: 

Most people have a comfortable tolerance for incoming sensory information (sounds, tastes, smells etc.) while others have sensory sensitivities which can make daily life difficult. One example is sensitivity to sounds, and there are several ways this can present. For people with MISOPHONIA, certain sounds such as chewing cause an extreme emotional response such as anger, disgust or anxiety; and for people with HYPERACUSIS, loud sounds cause the ears to physically hurt. Sensory sensitivity can have a negative impact on mental well-being, and also plays a role in a number of conditions including autism spectrum conditions, anxiety disorders, and synaesthesia. In turn, poor well-being can have significant financial costs with over £12 billion invested annually by the NHS. Our study has become all the more relevant given the COVID crisis because we are interested in a condition that triggers anxiety/anger/distress, and has particular resonance for family relationships in confined spaces.

These sound sensitivities are poorly understood in adults, and even less so in children. In our project we ask, how do sound sensitivities such as misophonia affect mental well-being, education and attainment? Does misophonia get progressively worse over time? What other mental heath conditions commonly co-occur with misophonia? In answering these questions we can better understand the underlying aetiologies, which in turn will allow us to develop targeted treatments for misophonia.

Impact of research: 
The impact of our research will be considerable, both in the field of auditory sensitivities, but also sensory sensitivities more widely, as well as in related conditions (autism) and more broadly in the field of education. Misophonia was first identified as recently as 2001 (Jastreboff & Jastreboff, 2001). As a new area of research, there is still much to learn. We will come to understand how/when misophonia initially presents, how it impacts school life, education, mental health, and overall well-being. Our findings will have important implications for developing targeted diagnostics and treatments for childhood populations. We will better understand schooling (Do children with misophonia have poorer attendance? Lower attainment? Difficulties paying attention in class?). And we will also better understand the prevalence of these conditions. We will then use our findings to raise awareness of the conditions, to inform parents and educators, and ultimately improve the lives of both children and adults with misohponia/hyperacusis.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 9 June, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 9 June, 2020
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Developmental disorders - autism, Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Learning difficulty, Mental health, sensory differences; sensory sensitivities, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Intelligence - memory, Mothers - maternal age, menopause, obstetrics, Parenting, Psychology - personality, sensory differences; sensory sensitivities