Hyperacusis is medically defined as a decreased tolerance of sound and occurs in around 40% of all tinnitus cases. However, it is possible to have hyperacusis without tinnitus.
And while many people experience a certain level of sensitivity to sound, only one out of 50,000 people will actually get hyperacusis. But for those that are affected by this disorder, the severe intolerance to sound can make normal every day life feel incredibly overwhelming.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperacusis?
Someone suffering from hyperacusis will find everyday noises such as running water, walking on leaves, shuffling papers, driving in the car and a running dishwasher as too loud for them to handle.
They will start trying to find ways to avoid these noises, but because they are everywhere, they ultimately start gravitating toward social isolation, which often leads to depression.
They can also develop a case of phonophobia, which is the fear of normal every day sounds or misophonia, which is the hatred of a particular sound.
What Causes Hyperacusis?
There are many causes of hyperacusis, all of which involve your brain’s central auditory processing center perceiving noise incorrectly.
This can caused by inner ear damage from certain medications, a head injury, air bag deployment, TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome), a viral infection that involves the inner ear or facial nerve and even Lyme disease.
There have also been cases where certain psychological conditions contributed to the development of hyperacusis in patients. These include depression, migraine headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, Valium dependence, certain forms of epilepsy and Tah-Sach’s disease. However, the medical hyperacusis definition does not often include these as considerations.
Hyperacusis is also common in children with autism (previously diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome) and cerebral palsy. In fact, my own daughter experiences hyperacusis from time to time due to her autism.
Hyperacusis Treatment Options
Homeopathic remedies such as Tinnitus Control have helped lessen the hyperacusis, but no direct cause has been found as to why that is. Other than Tinnitus Control, I have not been impressed with the medication treatments available due to their substantial side effects and unimpressive results.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, on the other hand, can be very helpful in dealing with the psychological fallout of hyperacusis.
Ear plugs and ear muffs (which my daughter still uses from time to time) can also help by decreasing the amount of sound that you are exposed to. Sound generators can also be beneficial in that they can help desensitize your nervous system so that it can tolerate sound.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, which is a mix of tinnitus masking and psychotherapy, has also proven to be beneficial and is worth investigating.