What is hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is a rare disorder that is characterized by abnormal loudness perception. Those affected – about one of every 50,000 people – are extremely sensitive to sound. Noises can be unbearable or even painful.
What are the symptoms of hyperacusis?
The major symptom of hyperacusis is distorted perception of noises so that they are too loud. Affected individuals experience a lower tolerance but increased sensitivity to sound, as if the world is set at a higher volume for them. Because of this, they may develop a fear of sound (phonophobia) that stops them from venturing out and experiencing everyday life.
What causes hyperacusis?
There are many different causes of this rare disease, such as:
- Head trauma
- Autoimmune disorders
- Chronic ear infections
- A damaged cochlea due to loud noises
- Examples include gunshots, fireworks, and the noises of certain work environments
- Acoustic trauma
- Adverse reactions to surgery, medications, or other treatments
How is hyperacusis diagnosed?
This disorder is diagnosed by an audiologist, who will begin by asking about symptoms and performing a physical exam. The next step is a hearing test, although it is necessary to understand that not all affected individuals will have hearing loss.
What are the treatments for hyperacusis?
There are no treatments or approaches curative or specific to hyperacusis. However, there are methods to improve sound sensitivity and related anxiety. Options include retraining therapy (a combination of acoustic therapy and counseling) and sound generators. Because many patients use earplugs to help cope with the disorder, doctors stress the importance of only doing so for small intervals of time. Constant blockage of the ears can cause more damage.