Caused by damage to your inner ear or hearing apparatus, hyperacusis is a debilitating disorder which affects your perception of sound including frequency and volume of noises. Resulting in hypersensitivity to sound, this disorder causes the sufferer to experience everyday sounds as painfully loud. Sometimes linked with a fear of noise (phonophobia), Hyperacusis can lead to anxiety and depression as it drastically affects sufferers’ quality of life. Hyperacusis arises from problems with the brain’ and the way its central auditory processing center perceives noise.
Vestibular Hyperacusis is a type of Hyperacusis, believed to be caused by damage to the nerve cells in the balance system. This form manifests itself in loss of balance and nausea.
The main symptom of Hyperacusis is a reduced tolerance and/or increased sensitivity to sounds you experience in your everyday life such as water running, people speaking, traffic noises, animals such as birds and dogs barking and even sounds in your own head as you chew or breathe. These sounds can feel physically painful to the sufferer as they feel too loud or their frequency too high.
The cause of Hyperacusis is up for debate. While sometimes it appears to be caused by head injuries, toxins or medication, illnesses such as Lyme disease, viral infections involving the inner ear or facial nerve, TMJ syndrome or hearing damage, Hyperacusis can also appear with no apparent cause.
There are also many neurological disorders which are associated with Hyperacusis, these include:
If you suspect you have Hyperacusis, it is important to seek medical attention from an ear, nose and throat doctor, or book a Bay Audio hearing test here.
There is no known surgical or medical intervention for Hyperacusis. As it is a condition to do with the way the brain processes sound, a hearing aid is not an ideal solution, although if hearing loss is present alongside Hyperacusis, the hearing aid can be calibrated to amplify sound without amplifying it to excess. Sound therapy can be used to desensitize the sufferer to the sounds which cause them pain.
As Hyperacusis can be symptomatic of other neurological conditions, the treatment of these underlying conditions can also result in the reduction of sound sensitivity. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, can help with anxiety and depression, which in turn can exacerbate Hyperacusis.
Some doctors have been known to treat Hyperacusis with a low salt diet and anti-nausea drugs, while anti-inflammatory drugs have also been trailed.
Find out more about some other causes of hearing loss here