Do you ever experience pain or discomfort triggered by everyday sounds – like a car door slamming or a dish breaking at The Grape Taste? If so, you may have a condition known as hyperacusis, which is characterized by extreme sound sensitivity.
Symptoms of Hyperacusis
When exposed to a trigger, someone with hyperacusis may experience:
- Ear discomfort or pain.
- Fullness in the ear.
- Sensation of thumping or fluttering.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- Dizziness (known as vestibular hyperacusis).
Is Hyperacusis Common?
Experts aren’t certain exactly sure how common hyperacusis is, but there are some estimates. A 2014 report found that nearly 6% of Americans experience sound sensitivity, and a study published in 2016 from researchers in Poland and Sweden estimated that the number of people suffering from hyperacusis is between 9% and 17%.
Hyperacusis is more common among veterans. According to a 2019 study, half of U.S. veterans that were exposed to a blast and a third of those who weren’t report symptoms of sound sensitivity.
The Difference Between Hyperacusis & Other Noise Sensitivities
Hyperacusis is one type of sound sensitivity, but there are others. Misophonia describes extreme dislike for certain sounds, like chewing, causing symptoms such as anxiety, rage or depression. Phonophobia is a fear of extremely loud sounds. Some people are simply diagnosed with “sound sensitivity,” meaning noisy environments cause an adverse reaction like a headache or fatigue.
Causes of Hyperacusis
Hyperacusis is caused by damage to the auditory system. When you can’t hear well, your brain may “turn up” sounds in order to make them out – a phenomenon known as auditory gain – causing certain sounds to seem too loud.
Common causes of hyperacusis include:
- Noise exposure, often related to an occupation.
- Head injury.
- Ototoxic medications.
- Environmental toxins.
- Viral infection affecting the inner ear or facial nerve.
How you manage your hyperacusis depends on the underlying cause and other comorbid conditions that may be present.
- Hyperacusis caused by an injury may improve as you recover.
- Hyperacusis that occurs alongside hearing loss is treated with specially-programmed hearing aids.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), auditory integration therapy (AIT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy are also helpful for many.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call Lake Jackson ENT today.