Hyperacusis is a medical term used for a rare hearing disorder in which people perceives normal sounds as abnormally loud or painful. These people show inappropriate responses to the sounds that are neither threatening nor uncomfortably loud to a typical person. Some also called it as hypersensitivity to sounds. The people are not born with it. It is an acquired condition and many people having hyperacusis have normal hearing. These people may find sound of car engine or even rustling paper uncomfortable. The disorder varies in the term of severity such that in some people it is just a mild inconvenience while for some it is a life changing condition. Quality of life of an individual with hyperacusis can be greatly compromised,
According to the hyperacusis network, every 1 person out of 50,000 people has hyperacusis. It has been seen that 1 out of every 1000 people suffering from tinnitus that is buzzing or ringing sensation in ear also have hyperacusis.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms depend upon the severity of the disorder but the main symptoms of feeling discomfort when hearing sounds is common to all. It can develop is one or both of the ears. As the severity increases, person feel the sound as painful as starts avoiding the situations which produce sounds leading to a sense of phonophobia that is fear of sound. People tend to stay alone and avoid conversations. This condition is also linked to anxiety and depression. Sometimes it may happen that all the sounds being perceived are uncomfortable. Symptoms can be summarized as
- Discomfort to everyday routine sounds which often begins in one ear and then progresses to the both.
- Facing difficulty in tolerating ordinary situations and environments
- Isolation to avoid sounds
- Symptoms of anxiety or physical discomfort.
Since it is an acquired condition that means it is acquired during the lifetime of person and not present from birth. The causes can differ from person to person like
Loud noise exposure: it is one of the major causes. It may be triggered by a single sudden intense sound such as that of a gunshot. It may also develop due to prolonged exposure to the loud noise without hearing protection.
- Trauma or injury to head in situation like air bag deployment
- Surgery to jaw or face
- Viral infection of the ear
- Bell’s palsy: there is a damage to the nerve which control the movements of the facial muscles
- Lyme disease
Studies have shown that there are varieties of neurological conditions which can be associated with hyperacusis like
- Chronic Fatigue syndrome
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Tay – Sach’s disease
- Some form of epilepsy
- Migraine headaches
- Autism: studies have reported that about 40% of children with autism have hyperacusis
On the other hand, some individual may not have any apparent cause.