Growing up, I was always told that if you play music in your headphones too loud, you can damage your hearing. At 33 years old, as I go through my daily routine of putting my $150 earbuds in at work, just so I can get things done without the distraction of the actual adult across from me who inexplicably chews with her mouth open, I find myself sending up a little wish that my hearing will be damaged in the process.
I’ve grown to accept the fact that wishing for some form of deafness, while demented and truly horrific, is really a cry to the universe to please just give me some peace. Instead, I have realized that my hearing actually gets stronger every day. I’ve started picking up on hidden backbeats and instruments in songs I’ve been listening to for 20 years. My boyfriend turned on a pen light the other day and I ran screaming from the room because of a high-pitched sound he could not hear that was deafening to me.
My life completely and intensely revolves around sound. I don’t go to movies because the sound of someone chewing or whispering is enough to make my blood pressure skyrocket and ruin every second of the experience. I dread the days my firefighter boyfriend is off duty, not because I don’t love my time with him, but because his presence in his own home means I cannot wear my noise-canceling headphones that I rigged to connect to the TV, so I can do the one thing I enjoy without having it ruined by the bass of the upstairs neighbors’ CONSTANT music. A few weeks ago, my headphones suddenly broke on a particularly bad noise night and I sat screaming, sobbing and rocking in the living room because I no longer had the one thing that made me safe.
Discovering that Misophonia was an actual thing didn’t make me feel as validated as some. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II and OCD and neither diagnosis makes me feel any less crazy. They still can’t be proven. People still don’t understand them. They’re mocked in a way cancer never will be. I’m guessing the three diseases run hand in hand; while I have no proof of this, the symptoms all seem to run in the same circle. I’m just lucky enough to have them all in triplicate. I find myself getting angry when people offhandedly remark, “Oh yeah, people chewing annoys me, too.” Oh, does it? Is it literally the only thing you can hear? Does it make you so full of fury you don’t know whether to scream or cry, so you do both? Do you think about noise every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year? Then no, you don’t “have Misophonia, too, haha”, you have something I don’t, which is a life.
In all honesty, I’m terrified. I’m getting worse and nothing other than temporary fixes seem to help. The pills I take for Bipolar don’t do anything to mask this far more life-altering disorder. I started a new job this year and I recently found out I’m going to lose my office to a new, yuppy, open floor plan. I don’t feel comfortable telling an employer who knows nothing about me that a disease they’ve never heard of, that I technically diagnosed myself with over the internet, will make that setup an everyday living hell for me.
Misophonia is very, very lonely. The physical isolation of not going out and doing things “normal” people can do. The auditory isolation of always being under the wall of headphones. The emotional isolation of feeling like you’re one noise reaction away from losing the relationships that truly matter to you.
I would miss music and singing in the car. I would miss the grumble growl of my beautiful Australian Shepherd welcoming me home with a toy. I would miss the laughter I’m actually able to bring to my loved ones’ mouths. But I do believe that deafness would bring me the one thing I’m never able to achieve, and that’s peace.
By Sara Kakuris