Hyperacusis: Sound Sensitivity Disorder
Hyperacusis has been linked to many mental health disorders including anxiety and depression due to frustration from constantly struggling with certain noises without being able to control them.
Hyperacusis is a medical condition that makes it hard to deal with certain noises or sounds. It can cause big problems for your daily life and activities if not addressed properly.
Hyperacusis is rare and often misunderstood by the general public because of its symptoms being similar to other disorders like tinnitus or misophonia. There are many causes for hyperacusis; some can be serious and require medical attention while others are milder which can be managed by avoiding triggers and practicing good coping skills such as deep breathing exercises.
The most common symptoms include: pain in the ears when exposed to certain sounds, difficulty distinguishing between different types of noises or sounds and a feeling that normal background noise is overwhelming.
Complications of Hyperacusis
Hyperacusis has been linked to many mental health disorders including anxiety and depression due to frustration from constantly struggling with certain noises without being able to control them. It could also lead people into social isolation as they avoid dealing with triggers which are present in most public places such as cafes, malls or churches where there’s either music playing over the speakers or people speaking loudly.
Causes of Hyperacusis
There are two main types of hyperacusis – vestibular and cochlear.
Cochlear hyperacusis is the most common form. It can cause pain in the ear, frustration, and a general feeling of intolerance to everyday sounds.
Meanwhile, vestibular hyperacusis can bring about nausea, dizziness, and imbalance when particular sounds are present.
Some known causes of hyperacusis include:
• deterioration of hearing due to aging
• exposure to loud noise, such as an explosion
• a slap on the ear
• chronic exposure to noise, such as working in a noisy environment
• certain medications
• head injury
• a virus
• having a cold or other ear infection
• temporal bone fracture in the skull
Symptoms of Hyperacusis
People who have hyperacusis can find themselves overwhelmed by everyday noises like a coffee grinder, people coughing or walking across the floor. A person may feel pain or discomfort when someone near them talks loudly.
They’re also more prone to migraines and headaches from all types of sounds at any volume. For some individuals, hyperacusis could lead to depression and isolation because they feel that their quality of life is being affected by an uncontrollable condition.
The symptoms typically worsen as time progresses although there are certain steps to help manage sound sensitivity such as wearing ear plugs in public places or taking medication for anxiety/depression if necessary. It’s important not to use alcohol or drugs when trying out these strategies though since these substances might trigger symptoms and disrupt the treatment plan.
Proposed Hyperacusis Sub-Categories
The University of Iowa proposed four sub-categories for hyperacusis:
Pain: Patients with hyperacusis experience pain or discomfort in reaction to certain sounds, usually those that are in high frequency or uncomfortably loud. Pain can be felt in the form of burning, stabbing, or icy sensation that radiates down the neck.
Loudness: People with hyperacusis perceive sounds louder than their actual decibel level.
Annoyance: Hyperacusis makes certain sounds highly irritating.
Fear: A person with hyperacusis may begin to avoid everyday sounds for fear of triggering symptoms. It’s not uncommon for hyperacusis patients to not want to leave home. This is not a good thing because this may lead to isolation.
Hyperacusis and Tinnitus
Hyperacusis is often linked with tinnitus and vice versa.
Tinnitus is typically more constant and may be accompanied by a ringing noise when you’re not exposed to any external sounds. Hyperacusis, on the other hand, makes it difficult for sufferers to sleep because of how sensitive they are to sound.
With hyperacusis, it is important to consult with an audiologist to get a proper diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.
Audiologists may be the doctor of choice especially if tinnitus symptoms are also present with hyperacusis. As mentioned, tinnitus and hyperacusis have symptoms that overlap, so it would be best to have a hearing expert make a thorough assessment.