I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise that anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity and may therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it.
~ The World as Will and Representation (1819)
I don't know if I would have gone into philosophy if it weren't for the fact that so many great philosophers are screwed up in ways that I can relate to. Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein all suffered so much worse than me in ways that we pathologize today, but out of that suffering they were all able to make something beautiful. If I could be their disciple, then maybe I could do the alchemist's trick of turning the muck of my own life into something golden.
Schopenhauer's horror of certain kinds of noise would easily get him categorized as a misophoniac, and be subject to Clockwork Orange style treatment by this research team at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. There's a really nice story here describing their research, chances that misophonia will get a DSM entry, and how they are trying to treat people.
I should say that I don't trust these people. Heres a quote from the article:
"It usually starts around 13 or 14, when most psychiatric disorders start occurring. It occurs in families, so there's probably also a genetic component. And finally, it's a problem in which a connection is made between a neutral sound and an aversive emotion," Schröder said. "It's a conditioning process: if you're in a problematic situation regularly enough, and start avoiding that situation, it gets worse and worse."
Despite the lack of knowledge about the cause, treatment is possible—pretty intense treatment, based on what Schröder told me. "The treatment consists of group therapy based on different techniques used by cognitive behavioral therapists," he explained. During the group sessions, which take place every other week, patients are taught how to disconnect the sounds from negative emotions.
"It's a lengthy process, people have to work at it for months," Schröder said. And that's necessary, because the brain is basically being reprogrammed. The behavior that reinforced itself over the years has to be completely disconnected.
As far as I can tell, the proposed treatment is just the kind of thing behaviorists pushed really hard thirty or so years ago, involving flooding and systematic desensitization. The track record of this kind of thing is O.K. for classic phobias, but horrible for everything else. The thing about it beign a lengthy process that you have to work at for months is a blanket protection from falisifiability. The people who quit because the treatment is too tramautizing (making the neuroses worse) don't count against the effectiveness of it. It's pretty close to the Alcoholics Anonymous line about how you don't fail the program, the program fails you.
Finally, maybe Schopenhauer (consider the reading of his essay on noise at right above) was right. It's not that we are neurotic, but rather that everybody else is desensitized. The sound of people incapable or unwilling to eat quietly really is disgusting. The cracking of whips really does murder thought.