For students who suffer from misophonia-or extreme sensitivity to the sound of people chewing, coughing, or eating-learning can be a challenge.
In a new study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Logan Fiorella, an assistant professor of applied cognition and development in UGA's College of Education, aims to determine how sensitivity to specific sounds can affect learning.
Along with co-author Amanda Seaborne-who at the time was an undergraduate researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara-the researchers found that people who said they were sensitive to sounds had a harder time mastering and retaining information when they could hear a person chewing gum, suggesting that misophonia has an impact on academic performance.
"Some people are especially sensitive to relatively subtle specific background sounds like chewing, and this sensitivity can be distracting enough to impair learning," said Fiorella, who was quoted about the study in both TIME Health and the New York Post.
He also noted that none of the students in the study, even those who said they were annoyed by eating noises, had clinically severe misophonia, which may require specific treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
"It may be especially important for students with higher levels of misophonia sensitivity to avoid studying in places where there are a lot of 'trigger' sounds, such as other people chewing, coughing, clicking pens, or rustling papers," he said. "When that's unavoidable, some strategies suggested by other researchers include using earplugs, focusing on one's own sounds, or using positive internal dialogue."