Does the slurping or smacking of people’s lips when they are eating really get to you? Maybe you hate going to the movies because the people crunching popcorn next to you make you want to crawl inside a hole. Or, maybe it’s just the sounds of someone chewing bubble gum noisily that drives you bananas.

If this sounds more like you, relax. You may have heightened sensitivity to certain noises, a diagnosable condition called misophonia. While joining the unlucky 20 percent of people who have misophonia may be unfortunate, it’s not entirely bad. There is some good news associate with this condition.

Scientists from Northwestern University have found that people who are hypersensitive to particular sounds tend to be more creative than those who are not.

Yep, you read that right. If you get annoyed by chewing sounds, you are probably a genius. The more rage you feel at people’s inability to munch their food quietly, the more of a genius you probably are.

How Misophonia is linked to creativity

In their eye-opening study, the researcher from Northwestern University surveyed 100 participants who were asked to provide as many answers as they could to several unlikely scenarios within a limited amount of time. The researchers monitored how participants reacted to a number of noises, and then asked them to complete a Creative Achievement Questionnaire before drawing their conclusions.

According to the study authors, the participants’ “answers revealed a strong link between those with the most creative answers and achievements and those sensitive to background noise.” The study showed that “higher divergent thinking scores were linked with more selective sensory gating.” In other words, the more the sounds bothered you, the higher you scored on tests that measure creativity.

Darya Zabelina, lead researcher in the study, explains:

“The propensity to filter out ‘irrelevant’ sensory information… happens early and involuntarily in brain processing and may help people integrate ideas that are outside the focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world.”

Interestingly, the researchers also looked into the habits of “creative geniuses” like Charles Darwin, Anton Chekhov and novelist Marcel Proust to compare their findings. They found that many of these massively creative people also had a strong aversion to background noises. Proust, they wrote, had such a strong aversion to noises that he covered “his bedroom with cork to block out noise whilst he worked.”

Darwin, Chekhov and Johan Goethe also strongly lamented the distracting nature of noise. Even Franz Kafka, one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century, reportedly said: “I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.”

So, the next time you’re getting vexed that someone next to you is loudly slurping on their chicken noodle or munching and crunching on their crisps, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re more creative, and probably also smarter than they are. Otherwise, that person wouldn’t be mindlessly chomping on their food like that.

Coping with noisy eaters

You’d imagine adults would know better than to chew with their mouths open, but it’s obvious not everyone is as well-mannered or considerate as you’d want. That means creative people, those with misophonia don’t have it easy. But, one can persevere through annoying “mouth sounds.”

If, however, people’s lip smacking bothers you too much, you need to learn how to cope. You can’t make everyone else change the way they eat just because it bothers you so don’t even try to change a chewer.

Pawel Jastreboff, who’s credited with coining the term misophonia, has helped people with misophonia by teaching them to associate positive experiences with annoying mouth sounds, gradually reducing the negative emotions the subjects felt.

Jastreboff’s technique works more than 80% of the time, so maybe you don’t have to plug your ears or walk away from the dinner table halfway through a meal if your spouse or other family member is the chewer, after all.

Featured photo credit: LoloStock via shutterstock.com

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