How do you perceive sounds?
What is Hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is a condition that affects how you perceive sounds. You can experience a heightened sensitivity to particular sounds that are not usually a problem for others. This means loud noises, such as fireworks, and everyday sounds like telephones can feel uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It can vary in its severity, from being a mild inconvenience to a life-changing condition.
If you think you are suffering with hyperacusis, you will feel a sudden discomfort when hearing particular sounds. It can sometimes feel very painful, and in some cases seem as though all sounds are just too loud.
It can sometimes be coupled with phonophobia, a fear of noise. This is often sparked by the pain sounds can cause, as you begin to associate noise with pain. The condition can also be linked to anxiety and depression, and can become a an isolating problem. Hyperacusis can often be experienced if you suffer from tinnitus aswell.
What causes it to occur can differ from person to person. While you may find it occurs as a result of an existing medical condition, or you may experience it through damage to your hearing, especially from long term noise exposure,or as a condition resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder. On the other hand, some may appear to experience it for no apparent reason. While the specific causes of the condition are somewhat debatable, there are ways to help alleviate the problem.
As it quite often appears as a result of another medical condition, investigating this may be the first step in treatment and is something your GP can start. Once this has been ruled out, you will often undergo sound therapy to approach the problem in a similar way to how tinnitus can be treated. Sound therapy is used to help you become less and less affected by the noises you are sensitive to.
You may find cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help, particularly if you may suffer from anxiety or depression. Hyperacusis can make these problems worse, or even cause them. CBT helps to address the emotions that come with it, and change them in order to reduce feelings of anxiety.
People can have hearing loss and sound sensitivity, and hearing aids can be tweaked to allow for amplification without excessive amplification.
Whilst the exact cause of hyperacusis is unknown, you may experience this condition due to damage to your hearing from excessive noise exposure. To prevent this, and other hearing concerns such as hearing loss and tinnitus, there are several steps you can take to ensure you protect your hearing. These include:
- Try listening to music at a reduced volume for shorter periods of time
- Wearing ear protection - for example at concerts, or at work if necessary
- Being aware that extended exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can be damage your hearing.