If you’re suffering from hyperacusis, there is hope. Hyperacusis can be caused by a variety of factors including exposure to loud noises or ear infections, but it is often hereditary and may run in families. It can also be triggered by stress or anxiety.
There are many treatment options available for hyperacusis including hearing aids and sound therapy devices that play back sounds at lower volumes than normal so they don’t cause discomfort. These treatments have been shown to help reduce symptoms significantly in some cases.
The Deal with Hyperacusis
For most people, sound is a comforting and enjoyable part of life. But for those with hyperacusis, everyday sounds are far too loud, resulting in pain or discomfort. The condition affects 1 out of 50,000 people worldwide
If you are a person with severe hyperacusis, everyday sounds like dishes clinking in the dishwasher or a passing car can be physically painful.
Hyperacusis and Tinnitus
Tinnitus is more common than hyperacusis, but their mechanisms are different. Hyperacusis patients experience severe discomfort in response to all sound levels, while those with tinnitus tend to have a less intense reaction. It’s not uncommon for someone who experiences hyperacusis also has tinnitus symptoms.
Take note that while hyperacusis may have some similarities with tinnitus, they are also distinctively different in many ways.
Hyperacusis Signs and Symptoms
In hyperacusis, the symptoms are ear pain, annoyance, distortions, and general intolerance to many sounds that most people are unaffected by. Crying spells or panic attacks may result from the experience of hyperacusis.
Hyperacusis is a condition that can happen to either or both ears and the symptoms can range from hearing sensitivity, anxiety, stress, and phonophobia. Avoidant behavior may be an effect of hyperacusis as some people avoid social situations in order to prevent their symptoms from worsening.
Hyperacusis sufferers experience discomfort or pain in reaction to certain sounds, usually those that are loud or high in frequency. Pain is often felt as stabbing, burning, coolness, or pain that radiates down the neck and into the head.
One of the most common causes of hyperacusis is being overexposed to excessively high decibel levels. It can occur after being exposed to loud sounds for a prolonged period, or if someone has sound-sensitive ears from birth. The excessive noise causes the eardrum and/or ear canal to stretch too far, causing pain in the head and temporary hearing loss.
It’s common for hyperacusis sufferers to have a sudden onset of the disorder as a result of Lyme disease, Ménière’s disease, head injury or surgery. Others may be born with sound sensitivity and develop superior canal dehiscence syndrome after an ear infection or come from a family where hearing problems are prevalent.
For many people living with this condition it is difficult socializing with friends due to their worry about triggers caused by sound like laughter and talking too loud. Sufferers often feel isolated socially because they’re afraid of what will happen if they encounter certain noises outside their homes where there is no control over who might make noise around them such as on public transportation or when shopping at a local grocery.
Bell’s palsy, a form of paralysis that affects one side of the face, can trigger hyperacusis if it also affects two small muscles in the ear. These are the tensor tympani and stapedius which control how loud sounds seem to you. When these muscles aren’t working properly normal sound intensity is amplified on one side.
Some people who have taken psychoactive drugs like LSD, methaqualone, or phencyclidine (angel-dust) may experience hyperacusis. The antibiotic ciprofloxacin has also been seen to be a cause of this condition.
The basic diagnostic test for hyperacusis is similar to a normal audiogram but the difference is that in addition to the hearing threshold at each test frequency, the lowest uncomfortable sound level is measured. It can be tough going through such an ordeal by yourself, which makes it even more important than ever for parents or guardians to act as supportive companions during these nerve-wracking occasions.
In a hyperacusis diagnosis test, certain levels are checked – loudness discomfort level (LDL and uncomfortable listening level (UCL), or uncomfortable loudness level (ULL). In patients with hyperacusis this level is considerably lower than in normal subjects, and usually across most parts of the auditory spectrum. The worst part about hearing loss for many people is that their ears can’t handle sounds that they would not normally find disturbing.
One possible way to treat hyperacusis is with retraining therapy, which uses broadband noise. Tinnitus retraining therapy, a treatment originally used to help people who are hearing impaired or have tinnitus, also helps those with hyperacusis. They use broadband noise for this and it can be the solution you need to reduce your sensitivity to sound.
Although patients might not always fully recover, the use of broadband noise usually gives many of them a significant improvement in their symptoms, especially if this is combined with counseling.
Research shows that CBT can be a successful treatment option for anxiety brought on by hyperacusis. This therapy is also often combined with retraining therapy to produce better results.
Hearing Health Clinic, Osseo MN offers hyperacusis treatment and other hearing-related services. Come visit us to get a comprehensive hearing check-up.