Hyperacusis is a heightened sensitivity to ordinary background sounds. A person thus afflicted finds it hard to tolerate normal-level sounds. Little research has been done on the subject. One study suggests hyperacusis cases are underreported, because they often occur in patients also having tinnitus, migraine headaches, or depression—all of which are medically recognized and easily diagnosed.
Sounds that don’t bother most people can cause discomfort, even pain to a person with hyperacusis. The rustling of a newspaper’s pages, or water running in the kitchen sink, can be annoying or intolerably loud. Sounds once enjoyed normally now cause distress for one who’s developed hyperacusis.
Sound and noise are present nearly everywhere in life, so hyperacusis can have a very detrimental effect on those suffering from it. If it’s severe enough, the victim could avoid any public or social setting. Family members, unaware of the true nature of the problem, might fear for the sufferer’s mental health. Hyperacusis can come on quickly or gradually. It can be mild or severe.
Research shows that about 50% of people suffering from tinnitus—a ringing, buzzing, chirping, or humming sound in the ears—also have some degree of hyperacusis. It is not known how many people suffer from hyperacusis without tinnitus.
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Signs and Effects of Hyperacusis
- Inability to concentrate
- Adverse reaction from sounds which most people would not find uncomfortable or loud.
- Avoiding noisy or social situations because everything is too loud.
- Decreased sound tolerance has interfered with enjoyment of everyday life.