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Understanding Hyperacusis: When Everyday Sounds Become Painful

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

 


From the sounds of the ocean waves to the lively chatter at the cafes, the world around us is filled with the sweet symphony of everyday sounds. But what happens when these sounds become not just annoying, but painful? That's where hyperacusis comes into the picture, and the ENT Family Clinic in Hollywood, Florida, is here to help you find relief.



Man suffering from ear pain from hyperacusis.
Daria Kulkova / Getty Images

What is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder characterized by an increased sensitivity to everyday sounds. People with hyperacusis often find sounds that are perfectly normal to others to be uncomfortably loud, startling, or even painful. It can impact their quality of life, making even simple activities like having a conversation, attending a concert, or enjoying a meal in a noisy restaurant challenging.



What Causes Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Noise Exposure: Prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as concerts, heavy machinery, or firearms, can lead to hyperacusis.

  • Ear Trauma: Head injuries, ear infections, or surgeries can result in heightened sensitivity to sound.

  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Conditions like Meniere's disease, Bell's palsy, and migraines can be associated with hyperacusis.

  • Medications: Some medications, like certain antibiotics or diuretics, may trigger or exacerbate the condition.


In a study published in the Frontiers in Neurology (2021) which reviewed the prevalence of hyperacusis in the general and special populations, it was found that musicians, music students, and teachers have a bigger risk of hyperacusis. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including:


  • Exposure to loud noise: Musicians and music professionals are exposed to loud noise on a regular basis, both from their own instruments and from other instruments around them. This noise can be especially loud when playing in noisy venues such as clubs and bars.

  • Duration of exposure: Musicians and music professionals are also exposed to noise for longer periods of time than the general population. They may practice for several hours each day, and they may also perform for several hours each week.

  • Frequency and volume of noise: Musicians and music professionals are exposed to noise of a wider frequency range and different volumes than the general population.


Recognizing the Symptoms

It's essential to recognize the symptoms of hyperacusis, as early intervention can significantly improve the quality of life. Common symptoms include:

  • Discomfort or pain in response to everyday sounds

  • Increased anxiety or stress due to noise

  • Social withdrawal and isolation

  • Noise sensitivity

  • Ear pain or discomfort


Treatment Options

There is no cure for hyperacusis, but there are a number of treatments that can help manage the symptoms which depend on its underlying cause and severity. Some common treatment options include:

  • Sound Therapy: This therapy helps desensitize the auditory system to sounds gradually.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help you to change the way you think about and react to loud noises. This can help to reduce anxiety and stress, which can make hyperacusis symptoms worse.

  • Hearing aids: Hearing aids can help to amplify soft sounds, which can make it easier to hear without having to turn up the volume on electronic devices.

  • Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to reduce discomfort and anxiety.

  • Hearing Protection: Using hearing protection devices can prevent further damage and discomfort.


Take Control of Your Hearing

Hyperacusis can be a challenging condition to live with, but with the right support and treatment, you can regain control of your life.


If you think you may have hyperacusis, it's important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and discuss treatment options. Our expert otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialists) at ENT Family in Hollywood, Florida is ready and available to diagnose your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms. Contact us today to start your journey toward better hearing and a healthier you. Your comfort and well-being are our top priorities!


To schedule an appointment, please call our office at 754-888-1368


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Dr. David Eleff, Otolaryngologist/Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist at ENT Family in Hollywood, Florida.

This article has been medically reviewed by  otolaryngologist, David Eleff, M.D.

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