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What is it?

Hyperacusis is a condition that affects how you perceive sounds. People with hyperacusis are incredibly sensitive to particular sounds that are not usually a problem for others. This can mean loud noises, such as fireworks, and everyday sounds like telephones can feel uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Hyperacusis can vary in its severity, from being a mild inconvenience for some to a life-changing condition for others.


Hyperacusis Symptoms

People with hyperacusis will feel sudden discomfort when hearing particular sounds. It can sometimes feel very painful, and in some cases seem as though all sounds are too loud.

Hyperacusis can sometimes be coupled with phonophobia, the fear of noise. This is often sparked by the pain sounds can cause, as the person begins to associate noise with pain. The condition can also be linked to anxiety and depression, as it can become a very isolating problem. Hyperacusis is often experienced by those who also have tinnitus.


Hyperacusis Causes

What causes hyperacusis to occur can differ from person to person. While some people may find it occurs as a result of an existing medical condition, others may experience it through damage to their hearing, especially from long term noise exposure,or as a condition resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder. On the other hand, some may appear to experience it for no apparent reason. While the specific causes of hyperacusis are somewhat debatable, there are ways to help alleviate the problem.


Hyperacusis Treatment

As it quite often appears as a result of another medical condition, investigating this may be the first step in treatment and is something your GP can begin. Once this has been ruled out, patients will often undergo sound therapy to approach the problem in a similar way to how tinnitus can be treated. Sound therapy is used to help the patient become less and less affected by the noises they are sensitive to.

Some may find cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help, particularly when a person is also handling problems with anxiety or depression. Hyperacusis can make these problems worse, or even cause them. CBT helps to address the emotions that come with hyperacusis, and change them in order to reduce feelings of anxiety. 


Preventing Hyperacusis

While the exact cause of hyperacusis is unknown, some do experience it due to damage to their hearing from excessive noise exposure. To prevent this, and other issues such as hearing loss and tinnitus from occurring, there are several steps you can take to ensure you protect your hearing. This includes:

  • Not listening to music at a high volume for long periods of time
  • Wearing ear protection - for example at concerts, or at work if necessary
  • Being aware that extended exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can be damaging to your hearing.

To find out more about how sounds can affect your hearing, take a look at our Guide to Hearing Loss.