Hyperacusis

This topic provides information about hyperacusis.

What is hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is an oversensitivity to sound. People with hyperacusis exprience an intolerance to everyday sounds. Specific sounds may be more bothersome than others to a person with hyperacusis. Often, high pitched and sudden sounds, such as dishes clanging or clapping, cause more disurbance.

What causes hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis can come on gradually or suddenly. It almost always affects both ears. It can range from mild to severe. Information regarding the mechanism causing hyperacusis is limited. There is no known single anatomical structure that has been shown to be responsible for hyepracusis. Both adults and children can develop hyperacusis.

The following have been thought to contribute to the development of hyperacusis:

There is a greater chance of having hyperacusis if diagnosed with Williams Syndrome or Autism.

What are the symptoms?

Sensitivity to sound that can cause discomfort or pain. Can lead to an avoidance of particular environments. About 50% of people with Tinnitus also have hyperacusis.

How is hyperacusis diagnosed?

There is no objective test for hyperacusis. However, all people who suspect hyperacusis should have an evaluation by an Otologist and an Audiologist. The Audiologist will find hearing threshold levels for air and bone conduction, as well as Loudness Discomfort Levels (LDLs). People who have LDL levels below 90 dB for pure tones are considered to have sound sensitivity. People who have LDL levels below 70 dB are likely to have hyperacusis.

How is it treated?

Hyperacusis can be treated using several types of devices prescribed by an Audiologist, including:

Ear Plugs or Muffs . There are several types, including foam earplugs, silicone or putty types, custom earplugs that are shaped specifically to the ear, or over the head ear muffs. Usage time of ear plugs or muffs should be closely monitored as extended use can cause an increase in hyperacusis.

Hearing Aids. People can have a combination of hearing loss and hyperacusis. The use of hearing aids will help to stimulate the auditory pathways and central nervous system which can improve hyperacusis. Hearing aids should be carefully prescribed and fit for people with hyperacusis in order to avoid overamplification.

White noise generators/sound generators – Using low levels of white noise and “music therapy noise” delivered into the ears to desensitize the hearing of a person with hyperacusis. The person is given a set schedule and time period to wear the device over an average of a 6 to 9 month time period.

Counseling and drug therapy – Addresses several of the secondary conditions that can be associated with hyperacusis, such as anxiety, depression, or panic disorders.

Does hyperacusis cause lasting problems?

Hyperacusis can cause isolation, avoidance of certain people or social settings, as well as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Lindsey Banks

Audiologist

Lindsey Banks is a graduate of the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) program at the University of Florida. She uses her diverse experience in hearing healthcare and her passion for helping people to provide credible information to those with hearing loss who visit Everyday Hearing.