College and Misophonia: A Few Survival Tips

This is my third year as a college student at San Diego State University. Throughout the past years, I found myself dreading walking into a class, wondering if my professor’s “s” sounds would trigger me. Because “s” sounds are my worst trigger, if my professor did trigger me, it was difficult to pay attention. I decided to compile a list of things I do when preparing to walk in to class for the first time, as well as throughout the school year.
As a reminder, these are things I find that help me in school. If you’re a student and think they don’t help you, that’s ok. Misophonia is a complex condition. Not everything one person does to cope will help someone else. I advise you to analyze your misophonia and find healthy coping mechanisms.
Get to class 20 or 30 minutes early. I have found that getting to class before other people do helps me to mentally prepare. But most importantly, I am able to scout out a seat I think will be farthest away from the professor. Usually a far left or far right corner seat, in the back of the room, is the best spot for me.
Bring headphones and earplugs. People in classrooms can get pretty noisy. For instance, if there’s no food policy (“no food allowed”) enforced by the professor, people may bring snacks and drinks to eat during class. I block these people out by using headphones and earplugs. The main reason for bringing them, however, is to block out the professor. Again, this is because most of my professors tend to trigger me with their “s” sounds, which is extremely frustrating. So, to avoid getting triggered and leaving the class, I put in my earplugs and headphones and play a soothing sounds from an phone app.
Go over class material on your own time. I say this because, if you were to follow my advice and block out your professor’s triggers, you might not catch everything he or she says. Or, if you’re like me and need soothing sounds on high volume, you won’t hear your professor at all. This is bad. I hope none of you need to resort to that, because it’s extremely difficult. It requires extra effort, and I will provide an example: Let’s say you’re sitting there in the best seat you can find in class and your professor is going over Chapter 4 in your book. You can’t allow yourself to hear him or her because they’re triggering you, so you turn the volume all the way up in your headphones. Much better. But now, you can’t hear the professor, and you’re sitting there waiting for class to end and trying to read the professor’s lips (an extremely difficult thing to do, something I fail at doing every time). But, you do know that you just went over Chapter 4. You figure you can go home and read it over on your own time. But when you get home, you skim the chapter, realizing it’s 40 pages long. You either sigh and get to work, or hope there’s a study guide later on down the road to look at, and do something else. Wait, there might be a quiz next week on the chapter. Maybe the professor hinted at some of the material that might be on the quiz? As you can see, this is difficult. I mean, you should go over class material on your own anyway, but when you don’t know where to start, you end up going over everything, or nothing at all.
If headphones and earplugs don’t work, get your own snack. Sometimes, my headphones hurt way too much during a lecture. To remedy this a small bit, I buy myself my own snack from the store and drown out triggers by eating. The sound of my own eating drowns out the triggers around me. Of course, if you can’t stand the sound of your own eating, I do not recommend this. Also, the snack is a temporary fix, and once you’re done with it, it’s up to you what to do afterwards.
Step out, rest, and come back. If I don’t have money for a snack and my headphones start to hurt too much, I have to step out of class for a little bit to give my ears a break. I try not to take longer than five minutes. I walk to the restroom and take my time going there and coming back. Usually, that helps me and I can wear my headphones again when I go back to class. They hurt after a little while again, but I try not to leave more than once during a lecture. If you have a professor who gets annoyed about students leaving and coming back, talk to them. Tell them you have misophonia and explain it briefly, and that you may have to leave class for a little while to calm down. Most professors who don’t like students coming and going are great and don’t mind after you explain to them why you need to leave.
If you use a sound app, bring a portable charger. Sometimes, when I get to class even 30 minutes early, someone is there and in my seat—which is usually by a wall outlet—and I have to find somewhere else. As irritating as this is, if that happens, I find the next best seat (which may not have a wall outlet) and I feel ok knowing I have a portable charger with me just in case my phone battery starts to get too low. Since I use wireless headphones, and use bluetooth, I especially need a portable charger because bluetooth drains battery really fast. I got a great portable charger on Amazon.com for about $20. Just do some searching and you’ll find one if you don’t have a portable charger.
If you have anything you want to add, feel free to do so in the comments!

Sharon Mousel
I graduated from Vincent Memorial Catholic High School in 2014, and now that I’m in college, I have been taking classes at Imperial Valley College and San Diego State University. This was made possible due to a partnership between the two schools where I can access everything on both campuses and graduate with my bachelor’s in 4 years. I am currently a junior, and I am studying Criminal Justice; I will now only be going to SDSU campus, as I have graduated from Imperial Valley College. I like going on the computer and hanging out with friends, and my wonderful, supportive boyfriend. I love practicing photography, writing, and singing. I’m known to be really shy, but I’m always trying to go beyond my comfort zone.

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