What is Hyperacusis?

girl covering ears with hands

HYPERACUSIS DEFINED

Hyperacusis is the medical term used to describe abnormal and severe discomfort caused by sounds that are tolerable to listeners with normal hearing. The sounds do not have to be loud but can be sounds that are part of the listener’s everyday environment.

SIGNS OF HYPERACUSIS

  • Reduced tolerance to sound
  • Increase sensitivity to sound
  • Tinnitus

CAUSES OF HYPERACUSIS

There are various suspected causes of Hyperacusis including:

  • Hearing Loss, Noise Injury
  • Head Injury or Whiplash type injury
  • Acoustic Trauma (an ear injury caused by a loud noise or noises)
  • Adverse reaction to medication or surgeries
  • Chronic Ear Infections
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Noise Exposure

There is no evidence that Hyperacusis is a genetic condition, instead it is acquired later in life.

INCIDENCE OF HYPERACUSIS

Because it is a subjective experience Hyperacusis cannot be measured directly and is, consequently, very difficult to study. Unfortunately because so little research has been done, very little is known about just how many people suffer with Hyperacusis. It is estimated that as many as 1% of the population are sound sensitive.  People who suffer from Hyperacusis go well beyond being sound sensitive often unable to tolerate the noises in their immediate environment including other people’s voices.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP?

Most treatments tend to be experimental, with most of the focus on retraining the auditory (hearing) system to become less sensitive to sound.  Retraining can include the use of hearing aids.  While this may seem counterintuitive hearing aids can be programmed to not only amplify the volume of sound but to restrict the volume of sound when necessary.

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