The sounds that send us over the edge

I shouldn’t criticise others; I have my own problems. An anxious fellow, I’m an inveterate tooth-grinder. I go at it all night long, as if I were grinding surplus corn supplies for the Mexican army. I now have hardly any teeth left, nor anyone willing a share a bed with me.

At one stage, the dentist insisted I wear a device at night; a plastic tooth guard which, when slipped into the mouth, made a sound so revolting that it caused the rapid departure of my fellow bed user.

Removing the device also made a revolting sound, reminiscent of a gumboot being pulled free from mud. Sssshloomp. The fellow bed-user, should she have reconsidered her departure, would flee once more.

As far as I’m aware, the night-time teeth guard is the only contraceptive device available exclusively from the dentist.

With the few teeth I have left, I do enjoy chewing ice. You’ve enjoyed the gin and tonic, now is the chance to suck on the slice of lemon before crunching away at the ice in the bottom of the glass. This has an electrifying effect on Jocasta who leaps to her feet and runs for her life, as you might from a fire.

I have so many bad habits, but this is the one she judges the worst. Here’s her explanation: “It gives me shooting pains in my own teeth. I imagine what it would be like if I did it myself. It makes me shudder. It really is so disgusting”. Maybe she too suffers from misophonia.


You’d think loud sounds would be more annoying than quiet sounds, yet that’s not true. My father was a pipe smoker, which created a whole cacophony. They were all disgusting, but low volume. Well, other than the bronchial coughing.

There was the sucking to get the device lit – a series of rapid inhalations, then the clunking of teeth on the stem as he maintained a hands-free grip on the thing. After a pipe’s worth of tobacco was consumed, the sticky tar residue was then scrapped into an ashtray, creating a wet scratching sound, much like a rat building a nest in a wall cavity.

Are there pleasant sounds? Of course. I love the sound of Clancy when he’s in the world of dog dreaming – letting out tiny squeaks of excitement as he chases some imaginary rabbit in some imaginary field.

Food sizzles on the barbeque; a beer can opens with an inviting pssst; and – on a visit to the seaside – the waves crash rhythmically onto the shore.

Yet, it’s those other sounds that stay with us. The knife squealing on the dinner plate, a colleague’s tuneless whistling, or the neighbour who needs to prove his psycho-sexual prowess by roaring his car engine as he sets off to work at 6.15am.


Personally, of course, I never hear him. Whatever sound he makes is drowned out by my grinding.

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