Imagine a world where the lightest of sounds are intolerable to your ears. This is hyperacusis. If you can not bear the sound of a newspaper turning, running water in the kitchen sink, or your child placing dishes and silverware on the table, then you probably have hyperacusis. There are no definitive cures, but there are suggested therapies. Hyperacusis can be devastating to your career, relationships, and peace of mind. Finding the proper diagnosis is difficult because few doctors understand hyperacusis.
Want to know more about hyperacusis?
The following diseases or disorders are linked to hyperacusis:
- Bell’s palsy
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Meniere’s disease
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
Hyperacusis is also seen in patients who have experienced a head trauma, such as an air bag deployment, surgery to the jaw or face, or a viral infection of the inner ear. One major cause of hyperacusis is loud noise exposure. It may be triggered by a single intense noise such as a gunshot, or it may develop gradually from listening to loud noise without hearing protection.
Depending on the cause, hyperacusis may get better with time. Specifically, in cases of trauma to the brain or hearing system, there is a chance that the sensitivity to sounds will become more tolerable. However, in cases where the cause is not clear, relief may not come on its own. Many people who suffer from hyperacusis get by in their everyday life by wearing earplugs or earmuffs to reduce incoming sound levels that may be bothersome or by withdrawing from social situations that may have uncomfortable sounds present.
This is a logical response. However, these strategies may not work—hyperacusis sufferers may be furthering their poor tolerance to relatively soft sounds. Wearing earplugs or earmuffs may provide immediate relief from an environment that seems uncomfortably loud, but when the individual eventually removes the earplugs or muffs, that environment will seem even louder than it might have otherwise.