What’s hyperacusis?

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Hyperacusis is a condition where an individual becomes acutely aware of sounds within a certain frequency range, causing extreme irritation and distraction. It can be caused by exposure to loud noises, blunt trauma to the head, medication, and various disorders. Treatment involves addressing the root cause and using tinnitus retraining therapy.

Hyperacusis is a condition in which an individual becomes acutely aware of sounds within a certain frequency range. In essence, everyday sounds that would normally go unnoticed or at least cause no discomfort become extremely irritating and distracting. There are a number of causes that can trigger hyperacoustic hearing, including the development of tinnitus.

One of the most common causes of hyperacusis is exposure to loud noises. Exposure to gunshots or loud music during a concert can lead to the development of tinnitus which progresses into an acute intolerance to everyday sounds. The condition can also be caused by blunt trauma to the head, various types of medications used to treat ear infections, and even surgery. While in many cases, this abnormal sensitivity to sound will lessen over time, other people struggle with the condition for years.

There are other common causes of hyperacusis that are capable of triggering this condition. Chronic ear infections may be the underlying reason. Severe migraines can also lead to this type of hypersensitive hearing. A number of disorders may include hyperacusis among their symptoms; these include Williams syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome and Bell’s palsy.

It’s not unusual for people with this condition to experience periods of extreme irritability and a constant sense of pain in one or both ears. The emotional toll can be so great that the individual becomes prone to anxiety attacks and mood swings that make normal social activity impossible. Because of the desire to avoid the noises that trigger these symptoms, some sufferers may become agoraphobic to the point where they find it impossible to leave the house.

People who have never experienced hyperacusis often have trouble relating to a loved one who is dealing with this health issue. Since the condition is triggered by any sound within a given frequency level, it is often the case that several nearby noises fall within that frequency range. As a result, the individual perceives what is essentially a solid wall of sound that appears to be rapidly approaching, making it impossible to ignore the sound or focus attention elsewhere.

When it comes to treating hyperacusis, addressing the root cause can sometimes bring relief. If medication is identified as the reason for hypersensitive hearing, switching to another medication may allow for healing. Addressing migraine pain or the underlying cause of constant ear infections can also help ease the problem. In cases involving both tinnitus and hyperacusis, the use of tinnitus retraining therapy, or TRT, can help the individual slowly adjust how they react to sound in general. Over time, TRT restores at least some tolerance to sound, which in turn decreases irritability and the incidence of panic attacks.

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