If you’re particularly sensitive to normal noises, then it could be that you have hyperacusis. There are ways to treat this though, and it’s worth exploring your options. Read on to find out everything you need to know about hyperacusis.
What is it?
Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder that makes it extremely difficult to deal with everyday sounds. A sufferer will be highly sensitive to ordinary noise: some sounds will be incredibly painful and loud, despite other people not really noticing them. Even something like the sound of running water might be unbearable. This can make it difficult to lead a normal life, with day-to-day tasks becoming painful. Around eight to 15 per cent of Americans suffer from hyperacusis.
There are many possible causes for this condition. One of the main causes is a continual exposure to loud noises – consistent exposure over time can result in many hearing disorders. Head injuries and viral infections can also lead to the emergence of this condition. On top of this, some medicines – including cancer drugs – can damage the ear and result in hyperacusis. Plus, in times of extreme stress, hyperacusis can emerge.
The main symptom is that ordinary sounds will seem too loud – often your own voice will feel too loud. This can result in discomfort, headaches and difficulty concentrating. In particularly severe cases this can be incredibly painful and result in a popping noise in your ear when you hear loud noises.
An ear, nose and throat specialist will see you and play different types of noises to determine the extent of your condition. You’ll also have a physical examination of your head to see if there are any signs of damage that could have caused this. Your doctor will also consider your medical history to see if anything could have caused this, while also carrying out pure-tone audiometry test to establish your hearing sensitivity.
Your treatment will depend on what caused the condition. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help train your brain to deal with loud noises more effectively if this is more of a psychological issue. Meanwhile, tinnitus retraining therapy can also help your brain acclimatise to noise over time. In a similar way, you can explore sound desensitization where you are gradually exposed to louder noises over time. If none of the above treatments work, you could explore surgery to bolster the structure of the ear and reduce sensitivity.
If you are suffering from hyperacusis or any hearing disorder, it’s worth seeking a diagnosis and treatment. A five-minute online hearing test can act as the first step on your journey to improving your quality of life.