Hyperacusis FAQs

What is hyperacusis?

It is sensitivity to sound. People with hyperacusis hear regular sounds as too loud. People with hyperacusis often have tinnitus too. If the brain’s hearing system becomes overactive and starts amplifying sound input, then hyperacusis can happen. If the brain’s emotion system becomes overactive too, then hyperacusis can be distressing.

What causes it?

There are various causes. Loud noise. Too close to bomb explosion. Accidents. Head injuries. Often it happens after a sudden, loud traumatic event. For example, co-worker sets off firecrackers right behind you as a prank.

How is it evaluated?

Same process as for a person with tinnitus: medical evaluation, tinnitus/hyperacusis evaluation, coping tools or therapy as needed. May include gradual lifestyle changes. For example, don’t wear hearing protection all the time. Don’t try to make things as quiet as you can. Don’t hide inside. You have to slowly wean yourself back to listening to sound like people who don’t have hyperacusis.

Can it be cured?

With proper coping tools or therapy, hyperacusis can get better. If somebody has tinnitus and hyperacusis, the hyperacusis is usually identified during the tinnitus evaluation. If someone has tinnitus and hyperacusis distress, the hyperacusis is treated first. There are various coping tools available similar to ones used for tinnitus (hyperacusis toolbox is like a softer tinnitus toolbox). Audiologists or Tinnitus Therapists offer evaluation, counselling and therapy (e.g. aids, devices) for people distressed by hyperacusis. If it doesn’t go away completely, use hyperacusis toolbox as needed.

Should I use hearing protection to make sounds softer?

Yes, if you are in hazardously loud music or noise. No, if you are not. Overprotection can make hyperacusis worse. With more severe cases, a person may need to be weaned off using hearing protection when they shouldn’t. In some cases, people get custom made sound level dependent earplugs. You can still hear and communicate. If there is a loud sound, the earplugs will screen it out, still letting voices through unlike standard earplugs or earmuffs.

Hyperacusis Resources

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