Do you hear what irksome thing I hear?
Burt's Eye View
Bouncing my leg. Clicking my pen. Breathing.
These are just a few of my favorite things that repeatedly annoy my wife’s low tolerance for noise.
Terry has sensitive ears. Mine barely work.
No, that’s not true. Terry has a very soft voice. And the volume control on our TV and CD player needs recalibrated. My ears work just fine when there’s something to hear.
But Terry picks up sounds before they’re even made.
We were sitting quietly when her face scrunched in pain, and she hissed,“What was that?”
She leaned in and shouted, “I said, ‘What was that?'”
“You didn’t have to spit in my ear.” I rubbed the side of my face. “What was what?”
“That noise. Hear it?”
“No. My ears are ringing from your yelling.”
Ten minutes later, something drifted down my auditory canals. I turned down the TV. There it was again — a new noise. Kind of irritating. I poked Terry. “Should the refrigerator growl like that?”
Suddenly, my ears rang with Terry’s shout: “Aaaurgghhh!”
It’s happened to all of us — there will be that sound that just irritates us. Chewing. Lip-smacking. Tapping. Whistling. Whining. The assault on the ear drums is enough to throw us into sound rage.
According to a recent article published in the journal Current Biology, that’s an actual medical condition.
Neurologists in the United Kingdom say there are physical differences in the wiring of the brains of people diagnosed with misophonia — hatred of sound. It’s defined as uncontrollable and intense emotions caused by hearing certain repetitive noises.
When your mom says, “Stop humming those same six notes right now or I’ll smack you into next Sunday,” take heed. She means it. She can’t help herself. Her brain is playing a different tune, and it isn’t soothing the savage beast.
Meanwhile, many studies over the years have shown that various sound amplitudes and frequencies affect human anatomy. Certain sounds produce physical sensations on the body that can jar our innards and flat-out hurt. Armies have developed sonic weapons — the worst of which is the common car sound system. The next war will be fought with woofers and tweeters.
The deep bass thuds of cars booming down the street are physically painful to Terry’s ears. She thinks the drivers are driving so fast because they’re trying to outrun the rumbling in the back seat.
Terry’s working on inventing a mute button that will extinguish all stereos within 100 yards. Possibly with flames.
I, on the other hand, have sat in the middle of those big bass speakers and smiled. The music relaxes me.
“That’s because you can’t hear,” Terry said.
“Beehives plant beer? What are you talking about?” I yelled back. “Stop whispering.”
“Why do I bother?” she huffed.
“I’d say about 4:30,” I replied.
So medical science says Terry’s noise intolerance is real. Here I thought she was just getting to be an old grouch.
“One of us is,” she said. “I think you’ll find his picture in the bathroom mirror.”
At least I think that’s what she said. I wasn’t about to set off her misophonia rage against the sound machine by saying one more time: “Huh?”
— Give Cole a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at www.burtonwcole.com.