Living in a world where the volume is turned up too high.
Hyperacusis, also referred to as sound sensitivity, is a condition characterized by an abnormal response to everyday sounds. These sounds, ranging from the screeching of bus brakes to the crying of infants, the clattering of dishes, or even the running of water from a faucet, can cause extreme irritation and even pain for individuals with hyperacusis. Although rare, hyperacusis affects approximately 9% of adults worldwide.
There are several potential causes of hyperacusis. It can occur due to a head injury or sudden exposure to intense noises such as fireworks, gunfire, or loud concerts, leading to damage in the cochlea. Hyperacusis can also result from inner ear damage caused by certain medications or chemicals, specific autoimmune diseases, viral infections, or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Given the diverse range of factors that may contribute to sound sensitivity, it is highly recommended to schedule an evaluation if you suspect you might be experiencing hyperacusis. During the evaluation, you will undergo a thorough physical examination of your ears and provide a comprehensive medical history. Hearing tests will be conducted to assess your sensitivity to sounds and speech, along with determining the presence of hyperacusis. Based on the findings, an appropriate treatment plan will be determined to alleviate the symptoms and manage the condition effectively.
Hyperacusis treatment varies from person to person and depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, hyperacusis may resolve spontaneously. However, for those seeking treatment, there are approaches available to improve their quality of life and manage sound sensitivity.
One approach to treating hyperacusis is sound therapy, which aims to help individuals cope with uncomfortable sounds and reduce their sensitivity to sound. This therapy involves the use of sound generators, which emit low-level soothing sounds, and one-on-one counseling. The combination of sound therapy and counseling works to stop central gain and retrain the brain’s auditory processing center. Through regular use of the sound-generating devices and counseling sessions, patients learn to control their brain’s focus and reevaluate the meaning and impact of sounds, ultimately rebuilding their tolerance to everyday noises.
It is important to note that sound therapy for hyperacusis should be conducted under the supervision of a qualified audiologist to ensure its effectiveness and safety. The duration and specifics of the treatment may vary for each individual, as it is tailored to their unique needs and circumstances.
Ear plugs or headphones can occasionally offer temporary relief, but they may have unintended consequences when it comes to hyperacusis. When sound is reduced for extended periods, the brain compensates by increasing its internal volume, a phenomenon known as central gain. This can distort the perception of loudness, making the hyperacusis condition even more distressing. Moreover, constant exposure to lower volumes may result in the brain adapting to softer sounds overall, causing normal, unprotected sounds to be perceived as excessively loud. Consequently, hyperacusis symptoms can be exacerbated. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully consider the potential drawbacks of relying solely on ear plugs or headphones for managing hyperacusis.
Sound generators are innovative devices designed to be worn throughout the day in both ears while allowing for natural hearing. These devices produce soothing white noise, and the patient has complete control over the volume and frequency response. Additionally, they conveniently stream audio from iPhones, iPods, iPads, and select Android phones. To meet these criteria, we fit specific hearing aids equipped with cutting-edge low-level amplification technology and advanced streaming and sound generation capabilities. It’s important to note that these remarkable instruments are the sole devices that fulfill all the necessary requirements, ensuring a comprehensive and tailored solution for our patients.