Hypnotherapy: Into the mind of the sound

Misophonia could be genetic: its first trigger sound typically could be a noise emanating from a parent or family member.

Published: 11th April 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th April 2021 05:09 PM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

Express News Service

Aaryan Bose often wished the world would make the right noises. The sound of slurping, or foot-tapping and sniffling would drive him crazy, prompting a fight-or-flight reaction.

Mostly he just fled. Turns out, Bose, a Hyderabad resident, has had misophonia a rare disorder triggered by certain sounds since puberty. It was never diagnosed and got worse. Believed to start at around 12 years of age, misophonia is a medically unexplored disease, therefore limiting the treatment options. No cure has been found for it till now in modern medicine. However, deliverance came to Bose in the form of Delhi-based hypnotherapist Manirajni Murthy.

“It’s not magic, it is hypnosis; there’s no need to fear, you only need to believe,” was her encouraging conclusion. Says the 29-year-old Bose of his sessions with Murthy,  “In just three sittings,  he felt better,” Bose admits. Hypnotherapy, Murthy explains, bypasses the conscious mind. “You may try hard to figure our what caused the misophonia. But that’s the problem. 

The rational mind won’t give you an answer,” she verifies. To treat Bose’s condition, Murthy used a countdown breathing module. The patient was asked to lean back on the lazy boy in her consultation room, close his eyes, relax his limbs, and begin to breathe consciously. He was asked to state aloud an intention, that of wanting to be cured. Thirty-odd controlled breaths and a loud clap later, Bose found himself slipping into a somnolent state. Bose began talk. Turns out, his misophonia was only a symptom. The root cause was OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder),” shares Murthy.

In the US, treatment for misophonia involves auditory distractions like white noise or headphones. British researchers concluded that the most offensive sounds were of eating and breathing like with Bose. Misophonia could be genetic: its first trigger sound typically could be a noise emanating from a parent or family member. The revelation inspired by Murthy’s sessions repositioned Bose’s consciousness, making him aware of the real world around him. He slowly learned to distinguish and tackle perceived threats. Through hypnotic guidance, he became open to shifting his faulty thinking patterns.

Bose is now working through his emotional triggers. The hypnotherapy made him realise he needs to let go. “Take for instance, the tapping of a pen. Everytime I heard the sound, I had an urge to snatch it from the person’s hands. But in certain situations such as an official meeting, I couldn’t. This made me feel powerless, agitated and nervous, sometimes even out of breath,” says Bose. Medical researchers believe that misophonia is a lifelong disorder that can only be managed and cannot be cured. But Bose and Murthy could prove them wrong.

Common sufferers are people with:

1. obsessive-compulsive disorder  (OCD) anxiety disorders
2. Tourette syndrome
3. Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)

✥ First symptoms occur most frequently between the ages of 9 to 12.
✥Misophonia patients are more women than men.
✥People with misophonia have higher IQs


✥ Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) teaches patients to tolerate noise better
✥ Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps to change negative associations with trigger sounds.        
✥ Using audio devices that stream nature sounds and rain noise has proven particularly effective in 85 percent of users
✥Supportive counselling for patients, family and friends is helpful

What more
Sound therapy: Misophonia Management Protocol (MMP) developed by Dr Marsha Johnson. Filling the auditory channel with sound (such as waterfall sound) reduces the strength of the reflex reaction to the misophonic trigger sound. The sound can be provided best with a behind-the-ear sound generator. The device is virtually invisible. Many devices can be connected by Bluetooth to an iPod. These can be purchased through an audiologists. A smartphone or iPod Touch can run a sound app such as White Noise or Simply Noise.  These apps can provide a variety of different sounds that will reduce the strength of the misophonic response. It is best to use an open-ear headphone, such as the Sony Sport (which seems to be going out of production, but can easily be purchased online). These headphones do not plug the ear, as does an earbud headphone. So a person can still hear the conversation and set the noise level to block the trigger sounds. Filling the home with sound is also an option, using white noise machines. The more background noise there is, the less problematic the trigger sounds. Along with the sound generator, the MMP treatment recommends six to 12 weeks of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focused on the area of misophonia. (A recent study on using CBT alone to treat misophonia showed a significant reduction in the impact of the misophonia on the person’s life). The MMP treatment should be compatible with the NRT treatment. Pawel and Magaret Jastreboff provide a treatment that they say uses Tinnitus Retraining Therapy.  This uses the sound generator as one of the components, and also works to reduce the strength of the misophonic reaction through controlled exposure to the trigger stimulus. There is not much published on this, but the rumour is that there is a peer-reviewed journal article on this treatment, which will be released soon.

“It’s not magic, it is hypnosis; there’s no need to fear, you only need to believe.” 
Manirajni Murthy, hypnotherapist, Delhi


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