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"Sound Sensitivity Unraveled: Understanding Misophonia, and Polyvagal Approaches"

A young woman with headphone listening to the SSP (Safe and Sound Protocol)

Are you overwhelmed by everyday noises like chewing or paper crinkling?

Do loud or repetitive sounds send you into a state of distress?

Sound sensitivity can be an issue among individuals with anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism or trauma. Polyvagal informed therapies offer promising approaches to help regulate the distress associated with sound sensitivity.

The History of the Safe and Sound Protocol

Dr. Stephen Porges developed the early predecessor of the Safe and Sound Protocol called the Listening Project Protocol 20 years ago. In 2017, through continued research and development the SSP (Safe and Sound Protocol) became available to trained mental health practitioners.

a mother helping a toddler with headphones while listening to the SSP (Safe and Sound Protocol)

Understanding Misophonia

Misophonia: Often undiagnosed, misophonia is a neurological condition characterized by a strong emotional response to specific trigger sounds. These triggers can range from mundane noises like chewing or slurping to repetitive behaviors such as pen clicking or knuckle cracking. Emotional reactions may include anger, anxiety, or even profound disgust.

Misophonia manifests differently for each individual, with some experiencing more severe symptoms than others. The condition can result in feelings of isolation as those affected tend to avoid situations where trigger sounds may arise. Many individuals with misophonia feel ashamed and may hesitate to discuss their experiences with healthcare professionals, who may not be familiar with the disorder. However, it's important to recognize that misophonia is a genuine condition that significantly impacts daily functioning, interpersonal relationships, and overall mental well-being. Typically emerging around the age of 12, misophonia likely affects a larger portion of the population than commonly acknowledged.

Sound Sensitivity and Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal Theory: Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, polyvagal theory suggests that trauma and anxiety stem from dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system, mediated by the vagus nerve. The tone of the vagus nerve influences our sense of safety and regulation, with "neuroception" determining whether a situation is perceived as safe or threatening. When you listen to the SSP, the music is working to interrupt 'unsafe' feedback loops, redirecting with cues of safety to help regulate your nervous system.

The vagus nerve discussed in Polyvagal theory

Treating Sound Sensitivity: Somatic therapies, rooted in the principles of polyvagal theory, offer effective treatment for sound sensitivity. By targeting the tone of the vagus nerve, these therapies help the body respond rather than react to unpleasant sounds.

Exploring Therapeutic Approaches

Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation, practiced regularly, can help regulate attention and build resilience to unpleasant sensations. Through mindfulness, individuals can widen their window of tolerance and reduce reactivity to triggers.

Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP): Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, SSP is a 5-hour listening therapy. It has been shown to be effective in treating misophonia, sound sensitivity, and anxiety. This therapeutic treatment involves regular listening sessions supported by a certified clinician, aiming to retrain the body's response to sound triggers.

Sound sensitivity can be challenging, and we don't always talk about it. With the right therapeutic approaches informed by polyvagal theory, it's possible for individuals to learn to navigate their auditory experiences with greater ease and resilience.

If you're interested in exploring these therapies further, feel free to reach out for a consultation to learn more about how they may benefit you.

A Safe and Sound Protocol trained and certified provider badge
SSP certified provider at 3 Rivers Counselling

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