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What is Hyperacusis?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Hyperacusis is a condition in which an individual becomes extremely aware of sounds within a certain frequency range. Essentially, everyday sounds that normally would go unnoticed or that would at least cause no distress become extremely irritating and distracting. There are a number of causes that may trigger hyperacusis hearing, including the development of tinnitus.

One of the more common origins of hyperacusis is exposure to loud noise. Exposure to guns firing or loud music at a concert may lead to the development of tinnitus that progresses to an acute intolerance for 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 subside over time, other people struggle with the condition for years.

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

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It is 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 subject to anxiety attacks and mood swings that render normal social activity impossible. Because of the desire to avoid noises that trigger these symptoms, some sufferers may become agoraphobic to the point that they find it impossible to leave their homes.

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

When it comes to hyperacusis treatment, addressing the root cause can sometimes bring about relief. If medication is identified as the reason for the oversensitive hearing, changing to a different medication may allow healing to take place. Addressing migraine pain or the underlying cause for constant ear infections may also help to alleviate the problem. In cases involving both tinnitus and hyperacusis, the use of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, or TRT, can help the individual to slowly adjust how he or she reacts to sound in general. Over time, TRT makes it possible to regain at least some tolerance for sound, which in turn decreases irritability and the incidence of panic attacks.

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