If you have hyperacusis, you may seem highly sensitive to many sounds, finding many stimuli intolerably loud and painful. Hyperacusis makes it difficult to deal with common, everyday sounds. It can be summed up as “exceptional tolerance to common environmental sounds.”

Although it can affect both children and adults, hyperacusis is rare and is thought to strike one in 50,000 people. It may result from a variety of causes, but the most prevalent one has to do with cochlea damage brought on by exposure to loud noises.

A person with tinnitus, a prevalent ailment in which people experience a ringing sensation in their ears, or those who have suffered head injuries are frequently affected by the condition. 

Hyperacusis: Signs and Symptoms

Hyperacusis can start suddenly or gradually. Symptoms of hyperacusis include:

  • Common, everyday sounds at normal levels are perceived to be too loud to the point of sounding distorted
  • Own voice sounds excessively loud or distorted
  • Ordinary household sounds with low intensity, such as the noise from an electric fan or refrigerator, may seem to be uncomfortably loud
  • Sudden, loud noises may cause discomfort
  • Popping sensation in the ear(s)

Hyperacusis Causes 

Hyperacusis has several causes or triggers which include:

  • One-time exposure to an explosion or sudden, loud noises
  • Presbycusis
  • Ear trauma
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Long-term exposure to noise
  • Injury to the head
  • Ear surgery
  • Facial nerve damage or paralysis
  • Blocked ear canal

An acoustic neuroma on the vestibular nerve (responsible for the balancing function of the brain) should be ruled out if you experience hearing sensitivity in only one ear. Early tumor detection facilitates easier removal. Even if a tumor may be discovered, not all cases necessitate removal.

Can hyperacusis lead to deafness?

Hyperacusis may develop before, during, or after the onset of tinnitus. Most individuals who are diagnosed with hyperacusis have hearing loss as well. Hyperacusis has an auditory gain that affects the acceptability or perception of moderately loud sounds. Hyperacusis also has a psychological component that is linked to an emotional, aversive reaction to sound combined with stress triggers.

The increased central auditory gain arises from neuroplastic changes which result in the over-excitation of auditory neurons in the auditory pathways. Hyperacusis can also affect the non-auditory areas of the brain that are responsible for fear, arousal, and attention.

Diagnosing Hyperacusis

Reduced sound tolerance cannot be detected using any tests. The majority of hyperacusis diagnosis is based on how you describe your discomfort. Audiological examinations are used to evaluate the condition of your ears and to rule out any other factor that could be causing your sensitivity to sound.

The primary test to check for hyperacusis will begin with a comprehensive physical examination. We will discuss your medical history and inquire about the length and intensity of your sound sensitivity symptoms. An audiogram, a graph that shows a person’s capacity to hear sounds at various frequencies, will be administered as part of the hearing test.

Hyperacusis Treatment

Since noise damage and inner ear aging damage are the major causes of noise sensitivity, there is typically no remedy once it has begun.

Early evaluation of the ears is essential because there are other inner ear illnesses that might be confused for hyperacusis and are curable.

In general, there are several strategies to manage sound sensitivity, including:

  • Wear hearing protection, especially when going to a place with loud noises (i.e concerts, shooting range) or when using power tools or lawnmowers.
  • Let your friends and family know about your sensitivity to sound so they can modulate their voices accordingly.
  • Consult with a professional. Audiologists can help identify factors and give you tips and essential coping strategies on how to live with hyperacusis.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy can also help by reducing your sensitivity to noise. As you use hearing aids for tinnitus or “noise maskers,” you can grow accustomed to the white noise and may eventually manage hyperacusis.

Does hyperacusis go away over time?

In most cases, hyperacusis does not go away on its own. People with hyperacusis who have achieved relief have adhered to a treatment program to desensitize themselves to sound.

There’s no generic treatment or medication for hyperacusis. A thorough evaluation combined with a mix and match of sound therapies, noise maskers, and counseling all play an essential role in creating a personalized hyperacusis treatment plan.

Hyperacusis Risk Factors 

High noise exposure is the most frequent cause of hyperacusis. Hearing loss and hyperacusis have a complex relationship. Recreational and occupational noise exposure is considered to be the major risk factor of hyperacusis. This can be avoided by wearing the appropriate hearing protection.

Is hyperacusis life-threatening?

Although not life-threatening, hyperacusis can significantly affect your daily activities and social interactions. This could in turn affect your relationships and ability to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.

Getting to the root cause of hyperacusis and finding the best way to deal with it is essential if you want to live a normal, functional life without having to worry about experiencing excruciating pain or discomfort with sounds.

Hyperacusis and ADHD

A recent study evaluated whether individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experienced hyperacusis. The study group with ADHD had a significantly higher incidence of hyperacusis than the group of healthy controls, according to the findings.

Hyperacusis Evaluation and Treatment – Norfolk, NE

We understand that hearing concerns vary for each individual. Someone may experience hearing loss, while another may suffer from hypersensitivity to sound. For any hearing issues or concerns, Norfolk Audiology can help.

Contact us today to schedule an evaluation!

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