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Hyperacusis Explained

Author: Empire Hearing & Audiology
Reviewer: Diana Callesano, AuD
– 2.5 minute read

Hyperacusis is a hearing condition that causes a heightened sensitivity to sound, causing every day, normal sounds to become irritating and painful. Often the most bothersome sounds are unexpected, high-pitched noises, such as alarms, honking horns, clanking dishes, and even hands clapping.

People who suffer from Hyperacusis frequently complain of living in a world in which the volume seems to be turned up too high. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult—and sometimes impossible— to function in ordinary environments. For this reason, hyperacusis can lead to withdrawal, social isolation, fear of normal sounds, anxiety, and depression.

What Causes Hyperacusis?

While the exact cause of hyperacusis is unknown, it is believed to be a problem in the way the brain’s central auditory processing center perceives noise—and those who suffer often experience tinnitus and hyperacusis at the same time.

Hyperacusis may manifest following a head injury or acoustic trauma. Other causes may include adverse reactions to medicine or surgeries, chronic ear infections, and autoimmune disorders.

Diagnosing Hyperacusis

An audiologist will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination in addition to collecting relevant medical history. They will enquire about the length and severity of symptoms and perform a hearing test to determine a patient’s ability to hear sounds at different frequencies.

Treating Hyperacusis

Treatment for Hyperacusis varies case by case, but there are a number of proven therapies that can help to manage symptoms and reduce hearing sensitivity.

Sound therapy can be used to retrain the auditory processing center of the brain to accept everyday sounds. To do this, the audiologist may suggest a noise-generating device that produces a gentle, static-like sound that can gradually increase sound tolerance over time. It is important to note that sound therapy requires directive counseling by a qualified audiologist for it to be effective.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has also proven to be helpful at mitigating the psychological distress associated with tinnitus.

People with a sensitivity to sound may wear ear protection in loud environments to muffle sounds. However, avoiding sounds can make someone more sensitive to sound. Thus, audiologists typically advise against these measures unless they are otherwise necessary, such as at a concert or while using power tools.

You Don’t Have to Suffer Alone

Our audiologists provide state-of-the-art evaluation and treatment for patients with hyperacusis. We understand how debilitating sound sensitivity can be—and we’re here to help.

Our goal is to help you manage your condition and improve your quality of life. Book an appointment today.