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Definition

What is hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is a disorder in loudness perception. Patients suffering from hyperacusis may appear overly sensitive to a range of sounds, finding many noises unbearable and painfully loud.

How common is hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis affects both children and adults, but is considered rare, occurring in an estimated one in 50,000 people. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis can either start suddenly or develop gradually over time.

When someone with the condition hears noise, they may:

  • Feel uncomfortable
  • Cover their ears or try to get away from the noise
  • Feel angry, tense, distressed, or anxious
  • Experience pain – hyperacusis can be very painful for some people

Some people become afraid of sound and avoid noisy situations, causing them to become socially isolated. School and work life can also suffer as it can be very difficult to concentrate.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes hyperacusis?

The cause of hyperacusis is unclear.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis has been linked with a number of other conditions, although many people with hyperacusis don’t have any other obvious problems.

Hyperacusis has been associated with:

  • Tinnitus – hearing sounds that come from inside your body, rather than from an outside source
  • Hearing loss – the brain may sometimes compensate for reduced hearing by amplifying signals coming from the ears
  • Damage to the ear or brain – including from a head injury, ear surgery, exposure to loud noise, earwax removal, glue ear, and persistent ear infections
  • Migraines
  • Bell’s palsy – a type of facial paralysis
  • Ménière’s disease – a disorder of the inner ear that causes a spinning sensation (vertigo), tinnitus, and hearing loss
  • Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd)
  • Addison’s disease – a rare disorder of the adrenal glands, which sit near the kidneys and produce important hormones
  • Disorders affecting the brain – such as williams’ syndrome or autism spectrum disorder

Hyperacusis can also be a side effect of certain medications. If you’re taking any medication, check the leaflet it comes with to see if hyperacusis is listed as a possible side effect.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hyperacusis diagnosed?

An audiologist will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination and asking the patient about medical history, including questions about the length and severity of symptoms. A hearing test or audiogram will be given, which is a graph that depicts a person’s ability to hear sounds at different frequencies.

It is important to note, however, that most people with true hyperacusis don’t appear to have any hearing loss as measured and recorded on an audiogram. They may have difficulty hearing speech in noisy environments or in poor listening conditions, even when hearing tests show no hearing loss. This is sometimes called obscure auditory dysfunction or auditory processing difficulty.

How is hyperacusis treated?

There are no specific medicines or operations that can treat hyperacusis, although treating any underlying cause may help resolve the problem.

If there’s no clear cause, specialist techniques to help reduce your sensitivity to noise may be recommended.

Treatment may involve:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (cbt) – this aims to help you explore and change the way you think about the troublesome noises to reduce distress, change your avoidance behaviour, and help you recover from your hyperacusis symptoms
  • Counselling and education – to support you and help you learn more about your hyperacusis
  • Sound therapy (desensitisation) – this aims to help desensitise your hearing over several months, using special noise generators either placed in the room or in your ears (similar to hearing aids)

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hyperacusis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hyperacusis:

  • Learning relaxation techniques
  • Listening to calming music or sounds
  • Not avoiding noisy situations
  • Not using earplugs or muffs (these may make your ears more sensitive)

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 18, 2017 | Last Modified: October 18, 2017

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