I Have Misophonia. I’m Also a Voice Actor. Here’s How I Cope.
Misophonia is known as “an intense hatred of sounds that don’t seem to bother anyone else.” I absolutely hate mouth noises of any kind. The little clicks and pops made by talking, eating and singing. ASMR was created by Satan specifically to torture me.
While I’ve looked into misophonia treatment (it exists, but it’s costly and I’m sure it’s not covered by my terrible USA insurance), I’ve learned to cope in my own ways while working in the audio recording industry.
Whether you have Misophonia yourself, or you’ve never heard about it and you’re curious, hopefully this post will give you some fun info you can use in your own life!
An Overview of Misophonia
Wikipedia does a great job of summarizing Misophonia, but I’ll summarize it here for you: Essentially, Misophonia is a hatred of very specific sounds. Most people who have it tend to hate mouth sounds (chewing, smacking, etc), which is true for me as well.
I’ve hated mouth sounds since I was a young kid. I could always detect songs where someone’s tongue clicked or lips popped before singing (ugh). I avoided eating around family because the sounds drove me nuts. I did notice that it didn’t seem to bother anyone else, but I thought maybe I just had super sensitive hearing or something.
A friend finally informed me about it when she told me she had the disorder herself. I had never heard of it, but suddenly my life made sense. There was, in fact, something wrong with me! I knew it all along!
If you have misophonia, please tweet me and let me know! We can hate mouth sounds together:I have Misophonia – I hate the sound of everyone chewing. Click To Tweet
How I’ve Coped With Hating Sounds
As a kid, I tried my best to not say anything. I was very sensitive and didn’t want to risk asking someone to chew quietly, then get yelled at. I focused intently on the TV and tried to ignore it. Today, I can handle myself in social situations, but at home I do. not. tolerate. that. shit. Chew quietly or get the hell out.
I physically cringe when I hear mouth sounds in video or audio. Sometimes I have to get up and walk around a bit to reset my brain.
A lot of people suggest meditating to calm the nerves. When you have Misophonia, listening to a guided meditation can make things MUCH worse. Imagine being in a completely relaxed state, then the speaker makes a mouth click noise and you shoot out of Lotus pose like a bat out of hell.
So, my “coping” has pretty much been “sucking it up and dealing with it.” Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything that eliminates it completely.
Working in Music with Misophonia
Despite my hatred of mouth sounds, I became a session singer and voice actor. It may seem like a cruel twist of fate, but I truly do love my work. My love for what I do overrides my hatred of mouth sounds.
Music doesn’t tend to be as bad as voice acting, because mouth sounds can be drowned out by the instruments.
After every single vocal take, I painstakingly review the entire song. If I hear *any* clicks, pops or other sounds I don’t like, I have several options: 1). Chop it out and delete it (if possible, this can be tricky if it will also cut off the end of the word). 2). Carefully fade them out, using my fade tool in my DAW or a noise gate plugin (which does help quite a bit). or 3). Sing it again.
There are certain phrases or vowels where I *know* mouth sounds are unavoidable. In my video above, I talk about how I’ve created hacks to work around them.
Working as a Voice Actor with Misophonia
This is where I really struggle. I’ve been brought to tears over my inability to speak a full line without a vocal click.
Voice acting is especially tough, because often I don’t have the music to cover up any unfortunate mouth sounds. It’s just me, a microphone, and my inability to say “you’ll love it” without 35 popping sounds in between.
Again, why do I even bother? Why be in an industry that drives me to the brink of insanity? It’s like someone with a phobia of dogs becoming a dog groomer. This is just how much I love what I do. It’s worth dealing with the tears, frustration and panic to be able to be in this industry to me.
My Mouth Noise Hacks
Of course, there are ways to avoid or lessen the mouth sounds, and I’ve used them all.
The most important tip is to keep your mouth moistened. Water and tea are an absolute MUST in my studio, because a dry mouth is a clicky mouth.
I don’t have any medical or scientific proof of this, but I have a theory: I’m a Type 1 Diabetic. As such, I feel that when my blood sugar is higher, my mouth can be a little stickier and can therefore make more sounds. I don’t know if this is true, but I try to control my blood sugar for that reason (and also because I don’t want to get my feet chopped off later in life).
When water and tea don’t do the trick, there are several products for dry mouth out there that really do work. Here are the best dry mouth products according to this website. There are sprays, cough drops, mouth washes, and other things that help in a pinch.
Another voice acting hack I’ve learned is to eat a potato chip before speaking. The glycerin in the chip coats your mouth. I’ve tried it, but then I ended up eating 30 chips and my mouth was even dryer because of the salt, so it wasn’t a win for me. It might work for you though if you want to try!
How My Clients Benefit From My Misophonia
I know many people reading this might think this is a horrible curse and I should quit my job and do something else. While I agree that it’s an odd career choice, I do think my clients benefit from my disorder.
My clients will never receive low quality sound files with mouth sounds in the background. I will not allow it. Because I am so thorough with my reviews, I also have a lot of time to edit and make changes to any other areas that might be less than stellar. It takes longer, and it’s a whole lot of extra work for me, but I don’t mind it because I want my clients to have the best. I don’t charge them for the extra time, and I always make deliveries by the due date.
I used to have a VERY unhealthy habit of turning the volume up as high as it would go on my headphones and listening for mouth sounds. Luckily I found a DAW plugin that allows me to hear any at low volume, so I don’t have to risk going deaf (although that would certainly take care of my Misophonia).
Here is a video with a live look at my Misophonia in action:
My Advice to You if You Struggle With Misophonia
Honestly, there’s not a lot that can be done. There are treatments which I mentioned above, and by all means feel free to try them if you can!
Other than that, I would simply suggest reframing how you view it. While Misophonia is considered a ‘disorder,’ I do consider it an asset to my work. Even if you don’t work in the music or voiceover industry, your ability to detect specific sounds is far greater than those around you! Plus, as far as disorders go, this one isn’t too terrible. Yes, it sucks to hear mouth sounds and it makes you want to scream and throw things, but that’s really the worst of it. I still think viewing it as a superpower is a great idea!
I would also start talking to those around you about it. Be open with the fact that while you like them as a person, you simply cannot join them for lunch because the sound of their eating makes you want to die. If your coworkers are loud eaters, let your workplace know that you’ll be eating in your car. Just because other people don’t notice their eating sounds, doesn’t mean you should have to deal with them. This is a real disorder and you shouldn’t be forced to suffer!