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Hyperacusis occurs when a person hears the sounds of everyday life more loudly than normal. It can be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. This increased sensitivity in hearing at times is experienced after someone has lived through a difficult life event, like bereavement. However, in many cases, there is no clear explanation for why it began.

For some people hyperacusis is a mild annoyance and for others it is unbearable Those experiencing more extreme hyperacusis can sometimes withdraw from social or professional activities, leading to isolation and anxiety. Most people suffering from hyperacusis also have another condition, tinnitus.

Hyperacusis: Signs and Symptoms

Your ears detect sounds in the form of vibrations. In turn, those vibrations travel from your ears to your brain stem, which is how you hear. With hyperacusis, your brain exaggerates certain vibrations causing your brain to react differently to them.

With hyperacusis certain sounds will feel much louder to you than to others, like:

  • A running faucet
  • A kitchen appliance, like a refrigerator or dishwasher
  • A car engine
  • A loud conversation

If you are experiencing sensitivity to certain sounds, don’t ignore it! Aside from hypersensitivity to everyday sounds, hyperacusis can have a real impact on your mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, ear pain, and relationship problems because it becomes harder and harder to connect with others.

If you notice increased sensitivity to certain sounds, see an audiologist for help. Audiologists diagnose, treat, and manage hearing disorders. The Doctors of Audiology at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center are trained to evaluate hearing loss disorders to help you find the treatment you need. Find us in Longmont, in the Colorado front range.

Hyperacusis: Causes

Hyperacusis is usually caused by a disease or health condition. It’s very rare to be born with it. Because certain medical conditions have hyperacusis as a symptom, it’s important to have a medical professional help with diagnosis to determine what the cause of hyperacusis is. The most common conditions that lead to hyperacusis are:

  • Lyme disease
  • Tay-Sachs disease
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Certain kinds of epilepsy
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Autism
  • Williams syndrome

In addition, it’s been found that being around loud noises can also cause hyperacusis. In fact, even a single gunshot can trigger the condition. That said, exposure to loud sounds over a long period of time can have the same effect. Many of these conditions don’t have a cure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to alleviate the discomfort. That’s why seeing an audiologist is critical to improving your condition.

Diagnosing Hyperacusis

If you think you have hyperacusis, make an appointment to see an audiologist. Our audiologists at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of hyperacusis, and are here to help. The sooner you get diagnosed, the closer you’ll be to finding the treatment that works best for you. There is no one-size-fits all approach to hyperacusis, which is why it’s so important to get the right diagnosis in a timely fashion so you can get back to hearing normally and comfortably as soon as possible.

Hyperacusis Treatment

Since there are a variety of causes for hyperacusis, the treatment will vary as well. If it was caused by an injury to the brain or ear, it may get better on its own over time. If the hyperacusis is being caused by a certain disease, then treatment for that condition is the first course of action. Unfortunately, many of the diseases that lead to hyperacusis have no cure, which means your audiologist may recommend different treatments, such as:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which will help you change the way you think about your hyperacusis. Its goal is to reduce anxiety and stress to improve your quality of life while living with the condition.

Depending on the severity, doctors may also prescribe medication to help with the tension caused by hyperacusis. Every person is different, which is why seeing an audiologist is key in finding the best hyperacusis treatment for you.

Hyperacusis Home Remedies

While there are some at-home treatments you can try, it’s still critical that you consult an audiologist to come up with an effective plan. Home remedies implemented by people suffering from hyperacusis have yielded positive results, though none of them have been clinically proven to be effective. These include:

  • Acupuncture: Shown to help manage the pain and discomfort associated with hyperacusis.
  • Relaxation exercises: A tool patients can use daily and on their own. Breathing exercises are the most common, like belly breathing, alternate nostril breathing, or resonant breathing. Applied relaxation is another strategy, in which patients are taught to tense their bodies and gradually relax as a quick way of calming the entire body.
  • Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT): Usually used to help children on the autism spectrum with hyperacusis. It involves two 30-minute sessions per day for 10 days where children listen to music that has been altered to remove certain sounds with the volume controlled. Over time more challenging sounds are introduced, helping children get used to the sounds gradually and reduce sensitivity.
  • Sound desensitization: Involves listening to very quiet sounds for a period of time every day while building up to listening to louder sounds. Results take between six months to a year to be observed.

If you’re suffering from hyperacusis, try one or a combination of these at-home remedies. They may work for you! Just be sure to meet with an audiologist as well to make sure you’re doing all you can to address the issue. The faster you consult a professional, the sooner you’ll see results.

Hyperacusis Risk Factors

Let’s take a minute to understand what risk factors are associated with hyperacusis.

  • Head injury: A traumatic head injury can cause the auditory system to become very sensitive to sound.
  • Damage to one or both ears because of medications or toxins: Certain drugs, like antibiotics, painkillers, anti-anxiety medication, anti-depression drugs, anti-cancer treatments, and blood pressure controlling medications can sometimes damage the ear, leading to hyperacusis, tinnitus, or both.
  • A viral infection that affects your inner ear or facial nerve (Bell’s palsy): Bell’s Palsy weakens nerves in your face, sometimes leading to hyperacusis.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder: The two joints connecting your lower jaw to your skull allow your jaw to work properly. When these joints are strained, like with TMJ, it can lead to or worsen hyperacusis.
  • Surgery on your jaw or face: These complicated surgeries could affect the network of nerves in your face, head, or ears, causing hyperacusis.

Many of these risk factors are uncontrollable, but you can control treatment. If you think you have hyperacusis, call one of our Audiologists today and set up an appointment.