1. Common sounds cause uneasiness

It doesn't need any extraordinary sounds for patients to feel uneasy: Barking dogs, vacuum cleaners, crying children, ringing telephones and even laughter trigger a state that can actually hurt.

Don’t confuse this condition with Misophonie however. While hyperacusis patients suffer from a hypersensitivity to everyday sounds, misophonia involves a hypersensitivity to very specific and usually repeated sounds such as the ticking of a clock, tipping sounds, dripping taps and even chewing.
Woman plugging her ears suffering from hyperacusis

2. Earplugs exacerbate the problem.

As a reaction to the silence the hearing system further amplifies the sounds. Thus, instead of alleviating the patient’s sensitivity, the use of earplugs can increase the sounds’ intensity and cause even greater discomfort.

Furthermore it is very common for sufferers to isolate themselves to avoid unpleasant sounds. Unfortunately, the more they avoid these sounds the stronger their hypersensitivity gets.

3. Suffering from a hypersensitivity to sound does not mean that one’s hearing is better.

Those suffering from hyperacusis don't have "super-human hearing“ or better hearing than other people whose hearing is unimpaired. Their sense of hearing can be completely normal. What differs from the norm is their intolerance of sounds.

Usually humans can tolerate up to 90 Decibels without feeling uncomfortable – about as loud as a hairdryers or a kitchen mixer. People with a hypersensitivity to sound suffer when hearing sounds of lower intensity. Talking with a friend at a normal volume registers at about 60 Decibels but can make hypersensitive people feel uneasy.

4. Hyperacusis can be accompanied by tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a kind of sound illusion that makes the affected person feel like they constantly hear a ringing in their ears. Various factors can cause this internal sound – among others loud noises, aging, diabetes, ear infections and ear trauma.

Hyperacusis is one of the complications of tinnitus. This is due to the fact that continuous sounds cause excessive intolerance and result in ever more sensitive hearing.

5. One type of treatment is sound therapy during sleep.

There are no drugs or surgeries to cure hyperacusis. There are therapies aimed at alleviating the patients’ discomfort and increasing their quality of life. Sound therapy during sleep is one of these treatments.

During sleep, our brain and hearing never shut down. Therapists can therefore use sleep to implement de-sensitizing therapy using white noise. Overnight, the patient is subjected to a quiet, pleasant noise during sleep. This is done without headphones as the approach aims to mix it with other ambient noises.

While sleeping our brain learns that sounds of this intensity are not threatening. The volume is slowly increased until it isn’t perceived as unpleasant any more. In a sense, it is resetting the brain's tolerance level for sounds at a normal volume.

In summary, hyperacusis is hypersensitivity to sound. If the situations illustrated here is familiar to you, consult with your ENT or audiologist for a diagnosis and to initiate treatment to allieve this hypersensitivity.