Does a loud chewer drive you crazy—to the point that you'd rather leave the room than endure the chomping? It turns out you might be the one with the problem. Researchers say people with an extreme aversion to certain sounds—like chewing, foot-tapping, or sniffing—may suffer from a condition known as misophonia, meaning "hatred of sound," per the Sydney Morning Herald. Experts say up to 20% of people may suffer from it, and Christine Robinson is one of those people. She's so bothered by the sound of her husband chewing popcorn that she sometimes wears headphones when they watch TV. Why do such sounds annoy her more than others? Experts aren't sure—misophonia only recently became more well-known as people starting Googling their symptoms—but it may be caused by "enhanced neural connections in the brain between the auditory, limbic, and autonomic systems," per the Wall Street Journal.
A 2014 study found sufferers also tend to show symptoms of anxiety, OCD, or depression; there's still debate over whether misophonia is a psychiatric disorder. Robinson guesses she's missed hundreds of family meals over the years because of her sensitivity. She even banned cereal from her house, but arguments still spring up when a family member starts crunching or slurping in her vicinity. "I suspect it's like living with anyone who has a disability," says her husband. "I have to respect that if I want to spend quality time with my family." Experts say those with the condition should learn to cope, rather than try to change the habits of those around them. But for those who have trouble—one woman equates the condition to being trapped in a room with your worst enemy—a form of cognitive behavioral therapy in which misophonia sufferers are slowly introduced to sounds has been shown to work. (Speaking of sounds, we now know what noise a giraffe makes.)