What is Hyperacusis and How Can You Treat It?

Hyperacusis is a rare hearing disorder that decreases your sound tolerance, affecting your ability to deal with usual, everyday sounds. Patients suffering from hyperacusis may find certain ordinary sounds unbearably loud, resulting in pain and discomfort. It can affect both children and adults, making day to day sounds similar to vacuuming, talking, watching TV, telephone ring, driving a car, and so on, which is practically intolerable. It is an extremely rare condition, occurring in an estimated 1 out of 50,000 people. Though not life-threatening, hyperacusis can have an impact on your day to day activities and social relationships, making life more complicated.

What Causes Hyperacusis?

Some of the major triggers of hyperacusis include:

  • Damage to the sensory receptor cells in the inner ear or the cochlea
  • Migraines (recurring headaches accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound)
  • Bell’s palsy (temporary weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles)
  • Meniere’s disease (an inner ear disorder resulting in vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus)
  • Noise pollution
  • Ear damage due to medications
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder (characterized by jaw pain, difficulty in chewing and clicking/locking of the jaw joint)
  • An injury to the head
  • Advanced stages of Lyme disease (a tick-borne illness caused by bacteria)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Tay-Sachs disease (a genetic disorder resulting in the destruction of nerve cells
  • Autism spectrum syndrome (developmental disorder)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (characterized by excessive fatigue, sleep abnormalities, pain, and other symptoms that are worsened by exertion)

Common Symptoms of Hyperacusis

Hyperacusis is a condition that can either be sudden or develop gradually. Some of its symptoms include:

  • Ordinary sounds at normal volumes may seem unbearably loud or distorted
  • Exposure to sudden, loud noise can result in pain and discomfort
  • Difficulty maintaining social and personal relationships
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Identifying Hyperacusis

For a proper diagnosis of hyperacusis, you will need to visit an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. While there are no specific tests designed to diagnose a lower sound tolerance, your doctor will examine your condition and give his diagnosis based on the length and severity of your symptoms, medical history, signs of depression and anxiety, medications, and so on. The doctor will even conduct an audiogram or a hearing test to evaluate your ability to hear sounds at various frequencies.

How Do You Treat Hyperacusis?

In order to create a treatment plan for hyperacusis, your doctor will first investigate the cause of your condition to rule out other illnesses or medical conditions. Although there are no specific medical or surgical options for treating hyperacusis, there are a few therapies, such as sound therapy and retraining therapy, that can help relieve the symptoms, as well as the sensitivity to sounds.

Retraining Therapy

The ultimate goal of this therapy is to get the patient habituated to hyperacusis. To achieve this goal, the treatment applies a combination of acoustic therapy and psychological counseling that helps patients learn to cope on a conscious and subconscious level. It is designed to help the patients lead a better quality of life with renewed positivity.

Sound Therapy

This therapy requires the patient to wear a small hearing aid type of device in one or both ears for at least two hours a day. The device produces a gentle, steady sound daily, gradually building up to louder volumes. This therapy aims to coax the brain to become desensitized and begin accepting everyday sounds normally.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

CBT can be used to treat hyperacusis, along with other symptoms such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety. This therapy aims to reverse the negative impact of hyperacusis on your emotions, psychological well-being, and quality of life by changing your thought and behavior patterns through a psychologist.

Precautionary Steps To Protect Yourself From Excessive Noise Exposure

Following are a few precautionary steps you can take to protect your hearing from excessive noise exposure:

  • Wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones
  • Wear hearing protection while working in noisy environments
  • Listen to music at a reduced volume

Although hyperacusis cannot be cured completely, therapies can help patients cope with the condition better without letting it negatively impact their quality of life.

If you are suffering from hyperacusis or any other hearing disorder, Schedule an appointment with Dr. Chris Hoffman today.


Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.

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