What is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is a condition in which a person has a higher sensitivity than normal to everyday sounds. Sounds in general, whether loud or not, trigger sensitivity. People afflicted with this condition often report that they have difficulty performing everyday activities, and subsequently avoid social situations all together. Others state that they try to adapt, and wear earplugs to decrease the intensity of sound.

Is Hyperacusis Common?

According to The Hyperacusis Network, hyperacusis is a rare condition affecting 1 out of 50,000 people. It can affect people of all ages and can develop in one or both ears.

What Causes It?

There is no one definitive cause for hyperacusis, but experts believe that it may be associated with one or more of the following:

  • Malfunction of the Ear’s Protective Hearing Mechanism
  • Damage to a Portion of the Auditory Nerve
  • Problem with the Central Processing System
  • Malfunction of the Facial Nerve

In that regard, there are associated risk factors to these problems that may lead to the development and/or consequences of hyperacusis, which include:

  • Viral Infections (Inner Ear, Facial Nerve)
  • Ear Damage (Toxins, Medication)
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Williams Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Migraines
  • Brain Injuries
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Tinnitus
  • Loud Noise Exposure
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What are the Symptoms?

People who have hyperacusis have difficulty dealing with everyday sounds (e.g., TVs, dishwashers, automobiles, babies crying), and consequently these sounds can cause a physical pain in the ear or a feeling of fullness (pressure); which in turn, may trigger other symptoms such as anxiety, headache, fatigue and concentration difficulties.

Can Hyperacusis Affect my Hearing?

There is no definitive evidence that hyperacusis specifically causes hearing loss, but if you already have hearing loss you may develop hyperacusis.

Is there a Cure?

Generally, there is no cure for hyperacusis; however, for cases of trauma to the brain or hearing system, it may get better over time. For cases with an undetermined cause, relief may not come on so quickly without some sort of therapeutic intervention.

Are there Treatments that Can Help Me?

There are several treatment options available to help patients reduce their fear and anxieties, develop coping strategies, and reduce their sensitivity to sound–all with the goal to ensure a better quality of life.

Sound Desensitization

With the guidance of an audiologist, sound therapy can be administered to patients to help them rebuild their tolerance to sounds.  Patient’s wear a noise-generating device that produces soft, narrow-band sound, and over a period of 6-12 months, it helps the patient retrain the brain’s auditory processing center to accept everyday sounds as normal.

Ear Protection

Sometimes an audiologist may recommend that a patient wear adequate ear protection (e.g., earplugs, earmuffs) to help muffle loud noises. This is usually only recommended for specific occasions (e.g., like attending concerts or using power tools), because avoiding sounds on a regular basis may make someone more sensitive to sound.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of counseling that helps people recognize that their negative thought patterns are having an ill-effect on how they live their lives in relation to hyperacusis.  The therapist works with patients to help them develop more positive thought patterns with the hope that they will be more engaging with social and work-related activities, and less apt to isolate themselves.

Can I Do Anything to Prevent It?

The best way to prevent hyperacusis is to avoid loud noises whenever possible and wear ear protection when needed.

What Should I do if I Have Hyperacusis?

If you think you have hyperacusis, contact us at Infinity Hearing today for a diagnosis and treatment. You may call us at (207) 451-2700 or you can schedule an appointment online. To learn more about us, please check out our website.