It starts with the phone alarm in the morning, shortly followed by the full alarm.
It ends with the winding of our quirky, slightly annoying, yet strangely soothing clockwork clock.
Today it was the drilling of the unbelievably long and deafening drill by the Sky man fitting our satellite dish. The squeaking of the garage door being opened and closed. The washing machine cleaning and then drying both sets of bath towels. I had to shut the living room door for that one. Waiting for the phone to ring for my consultant review; the anticipatory wincing pointless as the review has been put back. The ringing of the doorbell...and currently the anticipation of the doorbell ringing again, any minute now. I'm wincing already. And the sound of another person's voice, their car engine, the car door slamming shut.
I'm talking, if you haven't already guessed, about misophonia. Misophonia is, if you like, a fancy word for the hypersensitivity to sound. It's my belief that there are more people out there who experience this than know they experience it. I didn't know there were others out there like me until a few months ago.
It's not necessarily a fear of a sound, though it is easy to see why it can escalate to such. In extreme cases, where it is attached to conditions like anxiety, it can be a fear in its own right. But the feelings and behaviours when we hear sound, whether we expect the sound or it's unprecedented, are the same: wincing, ducking our ears below our shoulders, covering our ears altogether. To some of us, the sound of their spouse breathing is akin to the auditory agony of nails on a chalkboard, the grinding of teeth, the squeak of cotton wool or whatever sound it is that you can't stand. For us, every sound induces the actual sensory agony in our ears to the point they seem to ache and oft induces an actual headache. On particularly bad days, we are pushed to tears by the quietest of noises.
It is not just another cog in the grand wheel of Laura's brain, but something experienced by so many others.
What can be done about it? There are some solutions which, whilst not taking the entire problem away, lessen the pain.
Many of you are aware of my long and very fluctuating journey with agoraphobia. The experience of going out into the world is overwhelming on the senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch. It's all different to home. It's all out of my control. My senses become so overloaded that anxiety sets in. My body is in sensory overload, flooding with hormones causing multiple physical symptoms, and all my brain wants is to shut things out.
It is precisely through this that I have learned, gradually, one coping mechanism that makes things easier when going out. Ear plugs. Some days I might need ear plugs in both ears - obviously only when I'm accompanied... - but I've found it helps enormously even just having one ear plug in.
It lessens the sharpness of sound. Sound isn't as painful, it no longer overwhelms the senses as only one ear is hearing and somehow the sound in that ear is softened.
And it works in the home and in social situations too.
At the moment I just use the cheapest foam ear plugs I can find. Eventually I'll upgrade to Isolate ear plugs; I've heard good things about them, but having just paid out a visually gut-wrenching sum of money to purchase our house, it's not something I can test out any time soon. But I live in hope. They're on my Christmas list. And in the meantime, I try to occupy myself with periods of both sound and silence in my days.Suggest a correction