my office is alive with the sound of chewing
January 12, 2011 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Why am I completely unable to stand the sound of someone chewing gum?

I do not find the act itself repulsive and am not particularly squeamish, but the sound makes me want to get up and leave the room. I can handle other icky/biological sights and sounds perfectly fine.

Is there any explanation for this? Bonus points for answers that will help me avoid punching people around me in the face over this.
posted by Dr Dracator to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps it is just your pet peeve. We all have those things that annoy us for inexplicable reasons.
posted by AlliKat75 at 9:49 AM on January 12, 2011

I have the same problem. Unfortunately, it gets worse over time, much worse— I essentially cannot fly on an airplane because it bothers me so much. My theory is that if you don't grow up in an environment where people chew gum, then when people start doing it, it's incredibly irritating. On the other hand, if you grow up around people chewing gum all the time, it seems normal (?)
posted by Electrius at 9:51 AM on January 12, 2011

Interesting, other 'chew phobics' are out there. I've wondered it there was some kind of therapy along the lines helping with fear of spiders. I had an instance recently where something called Brain Gym might help, when I was asked to visualize the problem experience I couldn't.
posted by sammyo at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2011

The power of suggestion might play a large role in this, do you have a lot friends who feel the same way?
posted by Blasdelb at 10:06 AM on January 12, 2011

Best answer: I think it's just a disgusting sound. It reminds me of a farm animal eating. But then I can't listen to people chewing anything. I need to be chewing along so that the noise of my own chewing in my skull drowns others out-if I am not eating, I cannot sit across from someone who is without getting irritated. And gum chewing is especially loud because it's essentially non-productive eating. It's like chewing for fun. My suggestion-carry your own gum. Your own chewing should drown others out-at least it works for me.
posted by supercapitalist at 10:07 AM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

In 11th grade History I sat in front of a girl who chewed gum non-stop, and cracked her gum about once every 20 seconds. It totally grated on my nerves that she would be so unaware of how close her mouth was to my ear, and what the chewing sounded like. I hated her for bugging me. Every day I dreaded going to that class and listening to her chew like a cow chews cud. Her mouth was always open and noisy noise was coming out of it. The annoyance built up daily until I could stand it no longer, and about halfway through the semester I turned to her during a very quiet moment in class and burst out at the top of my lungs, "JESUS CHRIST WILL YOU STOP. WILL YOU STOP CHEWING THAT GUM SO GODDAMN LOUD WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU MY GOD. "

And then I got sent to the principal's office. And then I was released. And I walked back to the class and waited outside for it to end and caught the girl and apologized to her and we became best friends.

So if you're anything like me you hate the sound because it's coming from inside their mouth. Yeah, it's gross when someone treats you to the sounds of them chewing something in their mouth. It's what my mom would call uncouth. Especially when accompanied by little smacks and swallows and just general grossness.

Wear headphones whenever possible. I don't advice flipping out and screaming unless you want to be sent to the principal's office.

Also helpful for me depending on the situation: saying something like "Wow, you're really enjoying the hell outta that gum, huh?" in a friendly tone. Sometimes they'll chew more quietly, but even if they don't, I've diffused the tension I feel a little by humanizing the chewer, which makes me feel less annoyance towards them. Also very helpful: chew something yourself!
posted by iconomy at 10:08 AM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

advice = advise....ugh
posted by iconomy at 10:10 AM on January 12, 2011

I find it annoying too, and I'm also repulsed by the sound of someone talking through a mouthful of food. Maybe it's a milder version of that? Just basic rudeness...
posted by Crane Shot at 10:12 AM on January 12, 2011

Well, the sound bugs me because I was raised to believe that making chewing sounds is incredibly rude, and so if I'm hearing masticating noises for any reason, it means that I'm around someone who wasn't raised that way. Then the resentment and judgement rise up into my throat and choke me, because saying anything about my dislike of the noise is also in conflict with how I was raised not to be confrontational, or to call attention to the rude behaviour of others. So, I'm angry at the indifference, at the perceived rudeness, and also at the memory of the poem my mother drilled into my head: "A gum-chewing girl and a cud-chewing cow both look alike and the same somehow" because it's a cheap rhyme. I hate that poem, the noise, the memories, the inner conflict, the social construct and how gum makes ugly patches on the sidewalk when it's dropped, then mashed and dried and has collected grime. That would be my explanation - maybe part of that is part of yours?

I avoid acting out by reminding myself that it's not my job to be the boss of any other people's noises (except our daughter's) (and okay - a little bit at work), and that I'm weird for caring so much. I'm also very noise-sensitive, and have good hearing in general - so I may be hearing it more than others. I've had to excuse myself from the dinner table so I don't snap at the other members of my household, since one wasn't raised that way and the other I'm still working on.

Since your tags tell me you're at the office (and I like what you did there) - you may also be thinking it's unprofessional to be chewing gum at work, and I'd agree with you there too. My empathies, at any rate.
posted by peagood at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Would chewing gum yourself help drown out the sound?

I didn't care about the sound of someone clipping their fingernails until I listened to a This American Life story where the contributor said it was annoying and I said, oh my god that is annoying. I wouldn't have even thought it was gross until she said it was. Now I get annoyed and grossed out when I hear anyone doing it. I feel my irritation rise and I just breathe through it thinking, "It's okay, it's okay. You've done this too."
posted by anniecat at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2011

(Also, I did hear someone clipping their fingernails in their office adjacent to my office and I felt gross about it. But it's not my business what other people want to do, especially if they've retreated to their office to do so.)
posted by anniecat at 10:16 AM on January 12, 2011

As a general principle, it's rude to draw attention to any part of the digestive process, including chewing. So, I think we could flip this question around and ask why you are so lucky as to not be grossed out by the other songs on the 20 Golden Digestive Greats Soundtrack.

Or not. No need to look a gift horse in the mouth (so to speak).
posted by tel3path at 10:18 AM on January 12, 2011

I hate it too. I find it incredibly disgusting.
posted by Ostara at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2011

Best answer: This question has been brought up before. I have these bookmarked because, Oh my word, do I feel you! These threads were wonderful indication that I was not alone!

Loud mouth noises drive me crazy as well. I don't think it's an issue of just not being used to them--my family tried to "desensitive" me to these sounds when I was a kid by eating loudly in front me; didn't work.

Unfortunately, none of them have the answer to my/our problem.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 10:48 AM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah it makes me psycho. Like, really psycho. If I ever go to therapy it will be for this. I have to wear headphones on all public transport and at work. It's seriously debilitating.
In my case, I remember being yelled at by my mother for chewing gum this one time in a really scary way. I've always assumed that caused it. I'm sensitive to crunching and slurping and sniffling noises too, but they don't make me insane like gum chewing and cracking. I'd love to hear a fix for this.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:55 AM on January 12, 2011

My mother was just like that. If she heard any of us chewing gum, we had to take it out of our mouths--always. She had like gum ESP---she could tell even if I was in another room if I was chewing gum, and she would find me and make me spit it out. My family was freakishly into not eating sugar, and keeping your teeth healthy--but my mother couldn't stand the sound of gum chewing. I am really aware that it is annoying to people, and I feel kind of weird chewing gum, but I still do it.

I work with a guy who hates hearing people chewing gum too. I have heard him yell "Can you PLEASE STOP SNAPPING YOUR GUM whoever it is."

It is a vulgar habit. When I was in elementary school we used to get lectures about not chewing gum while we talked on the phone. I still remember that. Sometimes I hear people chewing gum while I talk to them on the phone, and I am so glad I don't do it, it just isn't professional.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:14 AM on January 12, 2011

Oh god, I'm not the only one.
Gum actually doesn't bother me -- but sometimes I'll get sick to my stomach hearing someone eating. I've left the room because I couldn't stand hearing my parents eat. So far I haven't found a diplomatic solution, other than asking 'Could you please try to chew a bit quieter? I can hear it and it's a bit disconcerting'.
posted by Heretical at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2011

Best answer: Welcometo the world of misophonia! I find gum chewing (and chewing in general) to be one of the most excruciating sounds in the world. Turns out I can hear a wider range of frequencies than most people. Google misophonia and see if the symptoms described fit you.
posted by patronuscharms at 11:51 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having to eat with other people without music playing makes me want to hack my own head off. I can't even eat alone without some music playing. People chewing gum affects me the same way.

I know others don't have this problem. Those near and dear to me just put a little music on -- it makes things nice anyway.

In an office, I believe you may want Ye Olde White Noise Generator.

As far as explanation, incidentally, for your big book of neurotic beginnings -- I am fairly certain the reason this bothers me is that my dad was (is, although now we have the aforementioned music) a horrible NOM NOM NOM CRUNNNNCH SLURP eater and we also had miserable dinner times for fun family dynamics other than that, so the memory of that horrible sound and unrelenting tension is scrawled on my psyche so deeply that decades later I'm unable to eat without some tasteful jazz playing in the background. Perhaps you, too, have a fun story in there somewhere!!!)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:04 PM on January 12, 2011

I can't stand chewing sounds either. Normally, I don't notice it, but when I do, it is total torture. I have had to move away or go to the next room or something. If I am eating or chewing something, that works as a shield of sorts. So, I carry gum with me most times for this purpose. After a minute or so of hearing someone chewing something, I involuntarily start imagining close-up HD images of the food getting chewed in their mouth and it gets pretty disgusting. I tend to "lose" my cell phone signal if someone on the other end is eating while talking.
posted by thewildgreen at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2011

Ha! I had no idea there was actually a word for it. But yeah, chewing sounds. Eurrgh. So. gross. (And I just hate gum all around. So I find it particularly heinous.)

I usually try to either remove myself from the situation, focus intently on some other noise, or start singing some song really loudly in my head. One of these usually does the trick.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2011

Because you're a normal, decent, civilised human being. People who chew loudly and smack their ugly, saliva-slick lips are a more primitive breed, and we advanced specimens are quite rightly repulsed by these lower forms, as surely as we are repulsed by pigs at the swill trough.

I'm being flippant, of course, but the kernel of truth is there, beneath my flippancy.
posted by Decani at 2:31 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Because chewing instinctively implies eating, survival of the clan and all that. For we moderns, eating is a communal act, and they are not sharing.
posted by Dick Paris at 5:45 PM on January 12, 2011

I'm going to make a wild guess that, because it's January, you're trying to make health changes like give up certain foods, give up smoking, drinking etc. And this has made you stressed, and your sensitivity to certain sounds is caused by that stress.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:27 PM on January 12, 2011

Best answer: Those of you trying to find rational reasons for this seriously don't understand how irrational and overwhelmingly powerful the reaction to food sounds can be for those of us who are so afflicted.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:32 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My suggestion-carry your own gum. Your own chewing should drown others out-at least it works for me.

Genius! I have even asked the offender for gum, thus helping exhaust their supply.

Welcometo the world of misophonia!

Yep, the wiki page sounds about as right as an internet self-diagnosis can be.

I'm going to make a wild guess that, because it's January, you're trying to make health changes like give up certain foods, give up smoking, drinking etc. And this has made you stressed, and your sensitivity to certain sounds is caused by that stress.

I'm sorry, this is about as far of the mark as possible. I am usually exceptionally relaxed in January, since I have a whole new year of procrastination to look forward to.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:00 PM on January 12, 2011

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