Hyperacusis is an increased sensitivity to everyday sounds. Many people have not heard of it unless they are suffering themselves, or know someone else who has the condition. It is caused by a problem with the way that the brain processes sound. It can cause some distress as the noise level can be painful.
People with the condition may not be able to tolerate sounds which do not seem loud to other people. Some sounds may be worse than others, particularly those of a high frequency. Quality of life may be significantly reduced.
It may seem logical that wearing earplugs would help. However this can make the problem worse. For a start, it is not appropriate to be wearing ear plugs all the time. This can lead to ear infections and people not being aware of danger. It is also a hindrance to social interaction. However, the main reason is that wearing earplugs all the time can worsen the condition. By avoiding sound the brain becomes confused and may become even more sensitive to try to detect sounds. It is clearly appropriate to wear hearing protection to defend the hearing against loud noises. Without this damage may occur to hearing. ZenPlugs moulded earplugs are useful in this situation. This is because they are comfortable and effective at blocking sound.
It is common for people to be sensitive to sound but actual hyperacusis is very unusual with only one in 50,000 individuals being affected. Here is a list of the causes.
- Trauma to the head.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Lyme disease.
- Infections of the inner ear.
- Temporomandibular joint syndrome.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Damage caused by medications or other toxins.
Individuals who may have the condition that need to be seen by an ear, nose and throat doctor. They will carry out a thorough history, examination and investigations to establish the diagnosis. Sometimes sound therapy may help treat the condition. This often uses white noise to retrain the brain not to respond to sounds in a way which causes discomfort. This can increase symptoms and improve quality of life. Hyperacusis is also associated with tinnitus. This is a perceived sound in the ear which is often described as ringing or buzzing. This too can reduce quality of life and lead to anxiety and depression.