Misophonia, Phonophobia & Earplugs
A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with misophonia and phonophobia. Misophonia is “a disorder in which certain sounds trigger physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstances” (WebMD). Phonophobia is “a persistent, abnormal, unwarranted fear of sounds” (NIH). These are not uncommon diagnoses for autistic people like me. Anyway, I was referred to a therapist whose recommendation helped me greatly. She pointed out that, in a quiet space—which is often what people with these issues think they want and need—any sound is distracting and potentially upsetting. What I ultimately needed was a sound-rich environment so that other outside sounds did not seem so abrupt. So she had me put sound machines all over my house, each set to different sounds and frequencies, and that has been a huge help.
That said, there are still times when I need to shut sounds out. I’d used those foam earplugs in my college dorm days, and I still traveled with them just in case I had noisy neighbors in my hotels. But lately there have been a slew of products on the market for dealing with unwanted sounds and distractions, and I’ve tried a couple.
The first ones I got were Calmer. These don’t block sounds completely, but they do sort of redirect some ambient noises. I’ve been known to wear these when there is a lot of background stuff going on at home, and I even wore them to a Matchbox Twenty concert, where they worked really well. (Sadly, I also lost them at that concert, but I do have another pair.) Inserting these took some getting used to—read the instructions!—but once in properly, they aren’t uncomfortable. I’ve even sometimes forgotten I’m wearing them.
I also have two sets of Loop earplugs. One Quiet and one Engage. These are a bit more similar to the old foam type, but made to go into the ears like earbuds. The Quiet ones have worked well for me when traveling and are a bit more comfortable in my ears than the foam ones, though cleaning them is… not difficult, just something that has to be done. I haven’t used the Engage ones as much yet, but they are designed to reduce but not completely block noise, similar to the Calmer ones. I’d be more likely to wear the Calmer in this situation because I do find them slightly more comfortable, but I like that, as with earbuds, Loop comes with different sizes of tips for fitting into your ears. They also have a great little carrying case. (Calmer has a small pouch.)
And then there are my good ol’ over-the-ear, noise-cancelling headphones. I only wear these if I’m listening to something else, though, not just to block noise. They are comfy enough for regular use, and I prefer something over my ears rather than in them, but they are not practical for all situations, so the Calmer and Loop are good for going out or just being generally portable.
I’ve heard of Eargasm, too, but haven’t had the chance to try them. If you have, please let me know your thoughts. Or if you know of other products worth a try, I’d love to HEAR about them. (See what I did there?)