It’s normal to jump or be bothered by a sudden sound like a car door slamming or a dish breaking at Ramblin Roads. However, if sounds like these cause extreme discomfort or pain, you may have a condition known as hyperacusis.

Hyperacusis is a condition characterized by abnormal sensitivity to common, everyday sounds.

What Are the Symptoms of Hyperacusis?Man getting an ear exam.

There are many possible symptoms of hyperacusis, and everyone who has the condition can experience them differently.

Common symptoms include:

  • Ear pain.
  • Fullness of the ear.
  • Thumping or fluttering sensation.
  • Dizziness (for people with vestibular hyperacusis).
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Is Hyperacusis Common?

While it’s unclear exactly how many people have hyperacusis, there are some estimates showing that somewhere between 6% and 17% of people experience symptoms.

A 2019 study found that veterans are especially at risk of developing hyperacusis – approximately half of U.S. vets who have been exposed to a blast and a third of those who haven’t report some degree of decreased sound tolerance.

What Causes Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is the result of damage to the auditory system. When you can’t hear well, your brain may “turn up” sounds in order to better hear them, a phenomenon known as auditory gain. This can cause sounds to sound too loud.

Common causes of damage that leads to hyperacusis include:

  • Noise exposure, often related to an occupation.
  • Head injury.
  • Ototoxic medications.
  • Environmental toxins.
  • Viral infection affecting the inner ear or facial nerve.

Certain conditions are closely linked to hyperacusis because they share a common cause or trigger, which include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
  • Lyme disease.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Meniere’s disease.
  • Autism spectrum disorder.

How Is Hyperacusis Treated?

Fortunately, there are many options for managing symptoms of hyperacusis.

Some causes of hyperacusis are temporary. For example, if your symptoms are due to a head injury, they will likely improve as you recover. Similarly, if they are a side effect of ototoxic medication, all you may need is to stop or switch medications (after consulting a doctor).

If you have hyperacusis as well as hearing loss, you may be treated with a specially programmed hearing aid that reduces the volume of loud noises and amplifies softer ones.

There are also many different kinds of therapy that can be used to treat hyperacusis. If you experience tinnitus as one of your symptoms, tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), where you wear a sound machine on one or both ears, may be helpful. If you have feelings of anxiety about your hyperacusis, cognitive-behavioral therapy will be beneficial.

For more information about hyperacusis or to talk to a hearing expert, call Bountiful Hearing Center today.

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