What Is Hyperacusis?

The human hearing system can tolerate a huge range of sound comfortably, from barely audible whispers to fireworks or rock concerts. There are normal individual differences in how much sound a person can cope with, and this further varies with the quality of the sound, the context it is heard within and the person’s emotional state.

Hyperacusis is the experience of everyday sounds (which are easily tolerated by others) appearing loud, intrusive or uncomfortable. Hyperacusis is likely to affect around 5% of the adult population. Medical conditions such as Bell’s Palsy, migraines and head injury are associated with an increased risk of hyperacusis. Over-sensitivity to loud sounds in young children is a little more common and may be associated with ear and hearing problems, sensory integration programs or Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Hyperacusis is commonly associated with tinnitus and often onsets after a stressful period in a person’s life (e.g. a traumatic injury, losing a partner or a job). Hyperacusis does not affect all people with tinnitus, and not all those with hyperacusis have tinnitus, but the two are linked and commonly occur together. Some people who present with both tinnitus and hyperacusis find that they are not equally troublesome for them.

Treatment for Hyperacusis is highly individual and ranges from counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to sound based treatments. Avoidance through the use of hearing protection is common and understandable, but may need to be managed under the guidance of our Audiologists to gradually allow a wider range of sound to be experienced.

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