What is Hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is a rare hearing disorder where a person suffering from it is unable to bear certain everyday sounds. It is also termed as noise sensitivity where the same sound is not even noticeable to others but the person suffering from hyperacusis finds it unbearable. It means every day sounds like telephones are also uncomfortable. It is most commonly found in people who are suffering from tinnitus which is ringing in the ears. This rare condition affects 1 out of 50,000 people and most of them have normal hearing despite this hearing disorder.
The main symptom of hyperacusis is being too sensitive to everyday sounds in your environment. People who have this condition complain that the volume is too high and that affects their quality of life. They may start to wear earplugs or other devices to control the noise. Other signs of this hearing disorder are:
- They may be irritable as the noises are very high-pitched and painful for them.
- They may have relationship problems as they are irritable and anxious always.
- They may have achy ears due to the noise they seem to hear.
- They start to develop a fear of noise known as phonophobia due to which they avoid social gatherings.
- Anxiety and depression are also common as they become isolated from the social environment.
- In severe cases, it can lead to loss of balance or even seizures.
Who is at Risk?
This rare disorder is not genetic and hence it cannot be passed down from a parent or a relative. You are also typically not born having this condition. So the common risk factors for developing hyperacusis are:
- A person with a head injury especially one that is caused due to an airbag
- A person who has an inner viral ear infection or has Bell’s palsy.
- A person who has damaged one or both ears due to toxins or medications.
- People suffering from diseases like Lyme disease, Meniere’s disease, Tay Sachs disease, or Williams syndrome.
- People who suffer from migraines.
- People who have chronic fatigue syndrome
- People who suffer from autism
- People who suffer from PTSD, depression
The exact reason behind the development of hyperacusis is not yet known. It may happen in one or both ears and can develop suddenly or gradually. There are theories that suggest that it can be caused due to:
- Malfunction of the protective mechanisms of the ear.
- It can happen due to damage or malfunction of the auditory nerve
- Issues with the central nervous system
Some of the other causes can be:
- Head injuries
- Infections of the middle ear
- An ENT surgery
- Exposure to noise at work or during entertainment activities.
- A history of tinnitus which is a hearing problem
- Psychiatric conditions
How is Hyperacusis Diagnosed?
The hyperacusis diagnosis is done by a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat. The doctor will:
- Do a physical examination of the person suffering from this condition. The medical history is checked and questions regarding the severity and length of the symptoms are determined.
- An audiogram is a hyperacusis test which is a hearing test. A graph is generated which shows the hearing ability at various frequencies.
- Many people with hyperacusis do not have hearing loss but have difficulty in noisy conditions or where there is poor audio. Sometimes the hearing tests show no hearing loss but still have this condition so a proper diagnosis is essential to detect this disorder. Once that is done hyperacusis treatment becomes easy.
How is Hyperacusis Treated?
The hyperacusis cure depends on the cause. No treatment may be needed if it is a result of injury to the ear or brain as it gets better on its own. A few treatment options the doctor may suggest are:
- Sound desensitization where a person learns to deal with the sound.
- A device is provided to be worn on the affected ear and it puts out sound which is bothersome. This treatment will not provide immediate relief as it takes time to reap the benefits of this therapy.
- Auditory integration therapy is another option where music is heard at different volumes for a small amount of time every day.
- Acupuncture and relaxation exercises are suggested
- Medicines to relieve stress is prescribed.
Hyperacusis is not dangerous but it affects the quality of life. Book an appointment with our experts at carefit to get a hyperacusis test online.
How can Hyperacusis be Prevented?
The exact reason for having this hearing disorder is not known but it may happen due to noise exposure. Some of the preventive steps that can be taken are:
- Hearing to music at a lesser volume and also for a shorter period of time
- Wearing ear protection when going to noisy places like a concert, etc.
- Avoid exposure to sounds of over 85 decibels as that can damage the ear.