By Jeanette Settembre, Moneyish
Other people chewing loudly can negatively impact more than just your dining experience.
Sound sensitivity to people eating or coughing affects learning, a new study published in the journal “Applied Cognitive Psychology” found. The findings indicate that people who revealed they were sensitive to these types of sounds — even if they didn’t have clinical misophonia (sound sensitivity syndrome) — had a much harder time mastering and retaining information when they could hear a person chewing. This suggests that sound sensitivity has an impact on academic performance.
The study featured 72 college undergraduates who were given just six minutes to study information about migraines before being tested on the subject. The students were split into two groups: one that studied in silence, and another in which a person was chewing gum very loudly. Then both groups took a comprehensive test in silence and answered questions about their own sound sensitivity.
Students in both groups did equally as well on the tests. However, when researchers examined students who said they were bothered by the chewing sounds, they found that those few did worse on the quiz than those who weren’t affected. Sound-sensitive students in the quiet room, on the other hand, did slightly better.
“Some people are especially sensitive to relatively subtle specific background sounds like chewing, and this sensitivity can be distracting enough to impair learning,” author Logan Fiorella, an assistant professor of applied cognition and development at the University of Georgia, told Time.
None of the students, even those who said they were annoyed by the chewing noises, had clinically severe misophonia, according to Fiorella, who adds that students with higher levels of sound sensitivity avoid studying in places where there are a lot of “trigger” sounds.
“When that’s unavoidable, some strategies suggested by other researchers include using earplugs, focusing on one’s own sounds, or using positive internal dialogue,” he said.