Hyperacusis is a rare hearing disorder that causes sounds which would otherwise seem normal to most people to sound unbearably loud. People who suffer from hyperacusis may even find normal environmental sounds to be too loud. Hyperacusis is not discomfort around loud sounds. Individuals with hyperacusis may find a car engine, dishes clanking, rustling of paper, or even loud conversation uncomfortable enough to avoid such situations.
There are some diseases or disorders that are linked to hyperacusis, such as:
- Bell’s palsy
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Meniere’s disease
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
Additionally, hyperacusis is seen in patients who have experienced a head trauma, such as an air bag deployment, surgery to the jaw or face, or a viral infection of the inner ear. One major cause of hyperacusis is loud noise exposure. It can also be found in individuals with autism or autism spectrum disorders. As autism rates grow, more families are living with someone who has hyperacusis.
Many people who suffer from hyperacusis get by in their everyday life by wearing earplugs or earmuffs to reduce incoming sound levels that may be bothersome or by withdrawing from social situations that may have uncomfortable sounds present.
A better treatment for some is called sound desensitization. Under the guidance of a specialist, the person with hyperacusis listens to barely audible static noise for a set period of time each day. Over time, perhaps 6 months to a year or more, the tolerance to sound is built up, and sensitivity to normal sounds is no longer painful.
Individuals seek out another treatment called auditory integration therapy (AIT). AIT is also commonly used with people with autism. With this treatment, one listens to filtered music at various loudness levels for a set amount of time each day. Other l treatments are available, including biofeedback, relaxation strategies, and acupuncture