Hyperacusis, or hypersensitivity to sound, is a condition in which even everyday sounds can be disturbing to those affected, which would not be the case for people with normal hearing. In extreme cases, the sensitivity to sound can become so severe that it is perceived as painful, a condition known as hyperacusis dolorosa.
People with hyperacusis often tend to shut themselves off from unpleasant sounds. Paradoxically, however, this can lead to a further increase and worsening of sensitivity to sound. Unlike most people who find sounds at around 90 decibels, about the volume of a circular saw, annoying, sufferers often have difficulty at just 50 decibels, which is about the volume of a normal loud conversation.
Symptoms of hyperacusis
In addition to hypersensitivity to noise, physical reactions can occur that can trigger a kind of startle response. This can lead to changes in blood pressure, palpitations, sweating and dry mouth. Many sufferers also experience emotional effects, including fear of hearing damage, frustration, concentration problems and sleep disturbances.
Causes of hyperacusis
There are many potential triggers for hyperacusis. A common one is hearing loss in the inner ear caused by excessive exposure to noise, such as sudden hearing loss or blast trauma. Certain forms of epilepsy, signs of migraine and side effects of medication can also play a role. In addition, psychological stress such as anxiety disorders, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder can increase sensitivity to sound.
Treatment of hyperacusis
The treatment of hyperacusis depends on the underlying cause. If the sensitivity to sound is due to other conditions or injuries, treating the underlying condition will often improve the sensitivity to sound.
In other cases, noise therapy can be helpful, where sufferers are gradually re-acclimatized to everyday sounds to increase their tolerance to noise. A small device called a noiser, which is worn behind the ear like a hearing aid and produces a continuous, soft background noise, can also help to make ambient sounds less distracting.
It is important to note that wearing hearing protection is not recommended for hyperacusis as this can make the hearing even more sensitive to sound and can make symptoms worse.
Prevention of hyperacusis
In many cases, hyperacusis cannot be completely prevented, especially if it is due to an underlying condition. Nevertheless, it is advisable to wear hearing protection in everyday life, at work or at events in order to protect your hearing and prevent a possible worsening of hyperacusis. The Schallwerk Strong+ hearing protection offers a virtually invisible option for everyday life, while our Work+ hearing protection protects hearing during loud work, such as on construction sites, without affecting the surrounding noise.