Not too long ago, my best friend and I were having a girls’ day out, complete with food and fellowship. As we drove along, she signaled a lane change — and didn’t turn off the blinker.
The sound drove me nuts.
I said, “Turn that thing off.”
“The blinker. I can’t stand to hear it any longer.”
“Really? It didn’t even register with me,” she said, and as all best friends do, she laughed at my little quirk as she turned that blasted blinker off.
Fast forward to a week ago. She called on her way home from work — hands-free calling, may I add — to touch base since we hadn’t been able to hang out much due to other obligations. As we talked, I kept hearing a “tick-tick-tick” and finally blurted out, “What IS that noise?”
“That NOISE, like a bomb ticking.”
“I don’t hear anything.”
She finally figured out that, once again, her blinker was on. She had been oblivious to it, but it registered with me even through a phone line. And once again, she laughed at me and commented on how sensitive my ears must be.
I do not know why that sound affects me like fingernails on a chalkboard affects other people, but it does. If it goes on too long, I can feel my teeth beginning to clench and my neck tensing up. I do hesitate to confess to this trait. My nearest and dearest are not above tormenting me with the knowledge the next time I’m riding with them, but then again, I know what gets on their last nerves, too. Payback will come.
My son, for example, hates to hear the sound of chewing. Before he got his own place and still lived at home, when we’d eat a meal in front of the television, he would turn up the sound so he couldn’t hear me chewing. Not making a sound was rather difficult when chips or crunchy veggies were involved. And, naturally, I’d occasionally poke a stick at the beast by deliberately chewing loudly with mouth wide open just to make him roar.
One of my work friends absolutely hated the sound of a pen tapping on a desk. We figured that out because I tend to absentmindedly bounce a pen between my fingers on my desk while I think. As with my son, I would occasionally deliberately bounce my pen to aggravate her, especially when she was deliberately aggravating me.
I Googled to see if this weird quirk has a name. It does —misophonia, defined by sci encealert.com as “the unreasonable emotions that well up inside some of us when we hear certain repetitive noises being produced by those around us. People with this condition experience annoyance or even anger at the clacking of a keyboard, the rustling of a chip packet or the smacking of lips.”
Some research has been done on misophonia, which was first recognized as a condition in 2000. One study in the U.K. “found evidence of changes to the brain’s frontal lobe that could account for the emotional response triggered by sounds in those with misophonia,” the article states. In other words, our brains are wired a bit differently. Certain sounds trigger the “fight or flight” response in us. Whether it’s a blinker blinking or the sound of chewing or a pen tapping on a desk, a normally innocuous sound triggers a response that is, as webmd.com says, “over the top.” Also on webmd.com, “Their reactions can range from anger and annoyance to panic and the need to flee. The disorder is sometimes called selective sound sensitivity syndrome.”
I suppose it’s comforting to know others have the same weird quirk. Bear with us. We can’t help it.
And whatever you do, turn that blinking blinker off. Please.