Your parents probably taught you it's not polite to eat loudly or slurp soup or drinks. But researchers might have just found a reason to get these types of sounds under control that has nothing to do with manners. Their new study suggests that people who have misophonia--that is, who are super sensitive to particular noises and have strong negative emotional reactions to them-- might not learn as well when exposed to the sounds that irritate them.

Noise makes a difference

For the study, researchers divided 72 college students into two groups. One group studied without noise. The other group studied with an individual loudly chewing gum. Each group studied information for six minutes and then took a test to see how much they remembered and understood.

Even though the results of the tests between groups weren't significantly different, researchers found that individuals who leaned toward misophonia sensitivity scored worse on the comprehension test if they had to take it with the gum chewer spewing noise pollution. 

Taking the study to the office

While you might not get panic attacks or feel your skin crawl like some people do if your sensitivity to noises is lower, the study means your work legitimately can suffer if others aren't aware of how you're taking in the sounds. You might have to be more proactive about controlling sounds in your work environment if you want to remember and perform at your best. For example, your teammates or boss might need to know that lunch meetings, which are becoming more and more popular, might be disastrous for you. If you can't get a reasonable accommodation, good options you can initiate on your own anytime include 

  • Earplugs or over-the-ear headphones
  • Listening to music or white noise recordings
  • Opting to review information in a quieter space, such as an empty conference room
  • Planned stress coping mechanisms, such as using a fidget, visualization or deep breathing

Whatever you do, don't brush misophonia under the rug. It's not in your imagination, and you deserve to learn like everyone else.

Published on: Feb 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.