Hyperacusis : Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Have you suddenly found it difficult to hear when someone speaks loudly? Do you get startled even by the sound of a door closing? If so, you might be experiencing hyperacusis.
Hyperacusis is different from simply having sensitive ears or being sensitive to certain sounds. This article explains the definition of hyperacusis, common symptoms, causes, and home remedies for it.
Hyperacusis is a medical term used to describe an increased sensitivity to sounds, causing an abnormal discomfort or pain in response to sounds that most people don't find bothersome.
Just having sensitive ears or being sensitive to sounds does not necessarily indicate Hyperacusis.
While being sensitive to sound is a subjective experience and boundaries between Hyperacusis and having sensitive ears may not be clearly defined,
But it's important to note that simply being sensitive to certain sounds does not equate to having hyperacusis.
The difference between having sensitive ears, being sensitive to sounds in general, and hyperacusis is as follows.
Difference Between Hyperacusis and Sensitive Ear
- Hyperacusis is a disorder characterized by an increased sensitivity to everyday sounds. People with hyperacusis perceive sounds as being much louder than they actually are, and these sounds can cause discomfort, pain, or even physical discomfort.
- Hyperacusis involves a increased sensitivity to sounds in the ears, which lasts longer and is more intense than the sensitivity experienced by regular sensitive ears.
- Hyperacusis can be caused by various factors, including inner ear damage, neurological issues, or exposure to loud noises.
- Sensitive Ear (or Sensitive Hearing):
- Sensitive ear or sensitive hearing is a term often used informally to describe temporary or occasional sensitivity to sounds.
- People with regular sensitive ears typically experience milder and shorter-lasting symptoms compared to patients with hyperacusis.
- Their sensitivity to sounds is not severe enough to significantly impact their daily life.
- Sensitive ear can occur due to fatigue, stress, anxiety, or even certain health conditions, but it is generally not as severe or chronic as hyperacusis.
People experiencing hyperacusis often ask common questions like,
"Why am I suddenly sensitive to noise?"
"Why are my ears ringing all of a sudden?"
"How to stop vibration in ear?"
If you've searched for such questions, check if the following
Daily symptoms of Hyperacusis
- Becoming sensitive to everyday sounds: Particularly, you become excessively sensitive and distressed by everyday sounds, especially high-frequency ones such as clinking dishes, birds chirping, phone ringtones, or women's voices.
- Hearing your own voice too loudly: Hyperacusis patients inevitably hear their own voices loudly since our vocal cords are very close to our ears. This can lead to social withdrawal and depression as patients tend to speak less.
- Difficulty concentrating: Hyperacusis patients, especially in one-on-one conversations at close distances, find it challenging to understand speech.
- Chronic headaches: While most people would get headaches if they spent several hours next to loud concert speakers, hyperacusis patients experience this regularly in everyday situations.
- Rumbling or Vibrating Sounds in the Ear: Sensations of rumbling or vibrations can be felt in the ears. These sounds are likely the movement of tissues like blood vessels and muscles around the ears. Hyperacusis patients are sensitive not only to external sounds but also to internal sounds, experiencing these symptoms frequently.
- Tinnitus: Persistent ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears (tinnitus) can occur, often in conjunction with hyperacusis. Hyperacusis commonly develops in individuals who already had tinnitus.
Hyperacusis Common Causes
- High noise exposure:
- High-intensity noise can cause damage to Inner Ear(hair cells and the flexible membrane), the Central Nervous System(Brain part processing of auditory signals), Neurotransmitters(transmitting auditory signals). Loud noise is a major cause of hyperacusis. Damaged inner ear tissues or the central nervous system can lead to diseases like hearing loss, but, conversely, they can also increase sensitivity to sound.
- Head/Jaw/Face Injury:
- The head is connected to the ears, and strong physical impact can cause physical damage to the inner ear tissues and nerves. The most common cases of hyperacusis due to physical trauma occur in car accidents where the face is strongly impacted.
- Bacterial or viral infections in the ear tissues might not only cause hearing loss but also increase sound sensitivity.
- Certain Medications:
- Some potent medications, like chemotherapy drugs, can affect not only cancer cells but also healthy cells in our body. Rarely, cancer treatments can damage inner ear tissues, leading to hyperacusis.
- Autoimmune Disorders:
- Autoimmune diseases vary, but they all involve the immune cells attacking the body's own tissues. If this abnormal immune response occurs in the inner ear, hyperacusis can develop. Common autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Crohn's disease.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ):
- This problem affects the jaw, a region directly connected to both the head and the ears. Issues with the jaw joint can lead to hyperacusis due to its proximity to the ears.
- Over 90% of individuals with autism or autism spectrum disorders are known to experience sensory sensitivities . Naturally, many people with autism also experience hyperacusis. Research shows that 50%-70% of people with autism experience decreased sound tolerance at some point in their lives.
Treatment for hyperacusis varies depending on the underlying cause.
- For cases caused by autoimmune disorders, managing the autoimmune condition can be a solution.
- In instances where hyperacusis is caused by physical trauma or infection, medication or surgical intervention to repair damaged tissues might be necessary, requiring a prompt visit to the hospital.
For less severe cases, trying various methods at home is advisable.
Home Care Hyperacusis Treatment
- Noise Management:
Reduce exposure to loud noises in your home environment. Use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones when necessary.
Create a quiet and calm living space. Consider using soft furnishings like curtains, carpets, and cushions to absorb sound.
- Sound Therapy:
Use white noise machines, fans, or calming music to mask or drown out disturbing sounds.
Sound therapy apps are available for smartphones and tablets, providing a variety of relaxing sounds to help manage hyperacusis.
- Relaxation Techniques:
Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. These methods can help reduce stress and anxiety, which might exacerbate hyperacusis symptoms.
Progressive muscle relaxation exercises can also help in managing muscle tension.
- Avoid Triggers:
Identify specific sounds that trigger your hyperacusis and try to minimize exposure to them. This might include avoiding noisy places, certain types of music, or loud social events.
Use ear protection (earplugs or noise-canceling headphones) when you need to be in noisy environments, such as concerts or sporting events.
- Hearing Protection:
If you are exposed to loud noises at work, make sure to wear appropriate hearing protection gear.
- Cognitive Behavioral Techniques:
Consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which can be learned through online resources or self-help books. CBT methods can help change your response to the sounds that trigger discomfort.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle:
Get regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and ensure you get adequate sleep. These factors can positively impact your overall well-being and may indirectly help in managing hyperacusis symptoms.