I recently stumbled upon a New York Times article about a newly classified condition where certain [small, menial] noises drive its sufferers into a rage. As a child I couldn't sit at the dinner table because the sound of chewing drove me nuts. I can't really remember a meal that didn't involve me in tears because the noises revolving around the meal (including the scraping of silverware on ceramic, slurping of beverages, etc.) just drove me bonkers. Bless my parents, but they thought I could control it, which only made things worse:
"Usually they cry a lot because they've been told they can control this if they want to. This is not their fault. They didn't ask for it and they didn't make it up." And as adults, they "don’t outgrow it," she said. "They structure their lives around it."
I can't even explain to you the chills I get reading this article. It's like they're writing my autobiography. My noise aversions have expanded since I was a child to include sounds like nail clippers, sniffling noses (just blow it!), and crunchy foods such as chips or carrots being chewed. I also loathe the sound of people chewing gum/popping it, especially with their mouth open. I've definitely learned how to cope with it better as an adult. At work I share an office with 3 others so I leave a set of headphones in my desk drawer to drown out any sound that starts to upset me. I usually carry around my Zune for the same purpose. I've also learned to avoid certain situations and I've gotten exceptionally talented at politely excusing myself from certain conversations or dinner tables that are starting to bug me. I assess the loud gum chewers within the first week of class and make sure I sit behind them because that cuts down their (detectable) noises substantially.
So what can you do? Be aware that your noises might impact those around you. I'm not telling you to never chew gum in public, but if you see someone glaring at you try to understand that there might be something deeper going on. And if you find yourself getting all worked up over silly little sounds, know you aren't alone!