The first thing to note is that most GPs and health professionals in the UK have never even heard of misophonia.
(Don’t worry, that’s something we’re working on getting changed!)
The second thing to note is that even if they did – and we finally get to the stage where misophonia, like other neurological disorders such as dyslexia or ADHD is officially recognised – it doesn’t make any difference in terms of the available treatment.
As things stand there’s no magic button, pill, or brain zap to eliminate misophonia. However if you’re desperate, there is still a route you can take to try and get help and that’s what I’ll take you through in this article. As it stands this is the only route via the National Health Service that I’m currently aware of.
But first some scene setting…
In terms of diagnosis and treatment in the UK, misophonia currently straddles a strange space between two different, but not wildly disparate disorders: tinnitus and hyperacusis.
Tinnitus – You might be familiar with tinnitus already, it’s a ringing in the ears and has been a well documented condition since at least the Roman times. If you already have tinnitus, you’ll know about it. If not, you can probably relate to it – it’s that constant tone or buzzing sound you sometimes get in your ear after listening to really loud music.
Hyperacusis – Is an acute sensitivity to volume. You might feel panicked or alert when certain noises are at a volume that other people feel completely comfortable with. This disorder is similar in a number of ways to misophonia. The physiological reactions that take place, such as quickened heart rate and heightened state of alertness, are often the similar, as are any feelings of panic, anger, fear or frustration.
It’s common for people with misophonia to have one or both of these disorders as well. If you’re reading this and thinking “I HAVE THAT TOO!” don’t panic, you’re in good company.
Even though misophonia still isn’t officially recognised as a disorder by the British Medical Association (BMA) there does seem to be a tacit acknowledgement of the symptoms on the NHS website under ‘hyperacusis’.
The listing notes: “… some find certain noises particularly annoying, some develop a fear of certain noises, while others experience pain when hearing ordinary sounds.” (source)
With that in mind, the best available treatment for misophonia in the UK that I’ve come across to date, comes in the form of therapy from an audiologist and/or occupational therapist who is familiar with auditory processing disorders.
It is worth pointing out that you won’t get an official diagnosis of ‘misophonia’ from the NHS. I’ve spoken to an audiologist who has, knows and talks about misophonia but won’t write it in her reports as it’s not currently recognised by the BMA.
However, if you’re lucky enough to get a good specialist (and you’re persistent) you might be able to get treatment.
How can you get treatment for misophonia on the NHS?
The first thing you need to do is to book an appointment with your GP.
Explain your symptoms clearly and calmly and try to focus as much as you can on the auditory aspects. If you have a problem with volume (as mentioned above) definitely mention this upfront. It’ll be FAR easier for them to refer you to a specialist for suspected hyperacusis.
Of course you should express how certain noises can make you feel, but if you spend the entire time talking about how angry or unhappy or upset you are, you risk getting a possible misdiagnosis for anxiety or depression, or more commonly obsessive compulsive disorder. You may be suffering from one or more of these disorders as well, but it’s very important to focus on your specific symptoms. They might then be able to refer you on for suspected hyperacusis or even auditory processing disorder (if you have trouble distinguishing certain sounds). If so great – you’ll be heading to the right type of specialist.
You’re ideally looking to get an appointment with an ENT specialist (ear, nose and throat specialist) or an audiologist.
If you get a good one, who’s familiar with misophonia or at least hyperacusis, they may be able to offer you treatment in-house, or with an occupational therapist who’s qualified in working with auditory processing disorders.
Obviously this is just a guide. There are no guarantees and unfortunately treatment and diagnosis on the NHS can be a bit of a postcode lottery, but if you’re looking to get treatment via the NHS this should help you get started.
The best thing anyone can do to help you (or a loved one) is to provide a better understanding of the condition, show you how to accept it and offer you coping mechanisms. The best coping mechanism in my experience is education and acceptance.
Understanding exactly what’s happening in your brain when you process certain sounds is incredibility liberating and can help take some of the sting out of an episode. Some coping mechanisms may involve CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), others may involve physical manoeuvres or exercises and others may simply involve small changes to the way you operate in difficult situations.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you’ve had experience trying to get misophonia treatment on the NHS, or any other health service, please let me know. I hope to follow this up with versions for other countries.