For many tinnitus sufferers, hyperacusis can actually be more difficult to deal with than their tinnitus. Because a few of my readers have stressed this point, and because I often felt the same way, I decided that a post on hyperacusis would be appropriate.
Hyperacusis is a condition which results in over-sensitivity or intolerance to certain frequency ranges of sound. People afflicted with hyperacusis generally have difficulty coping with normal sounds of everyday life. It has been reported that approximately 40% of tinnitus patients suffer from hyperacusis while 86% of hyperacusis patients also suffer from tinnitus.
The hyperacusis that I am are referring to is more appropriately known as cochlear hyperacusis. Do not confuse this with vestibular hyperacosis. Vestibular hyperacusis is a condition where the brain sometimes perceives sound as movement sensations. A common example might be a certain type of sound that triggers a sense of spinning or falling. Because vestibular hyperacusis is irrelevant to tinnitus, I will focus this discussion on cochlear hyperacusis.
A person suffering from hyperacusis might be bothered by the ringing of a telephone, running water, a ticking clock, the sound of the refrigerator running, normal to loud conversation, or even someone chewing gum or eating. Higher pitched sounds are generally worse. In fact, a person suffering from hyperacusis will often complain that many of these sounds will actually cause pain in their ears.
Many people suffering from cochlear hyperacusis may also experience panic attacks, extreme stress and crying spells. Depression and withdrawal from social situations and live events are also common reactions.
Not surprisingly, the causes of hyperacusis are also common causes of tinnitus. One theory on the cause is that it is a result of damage to the auditory nerve (the nerve that transmits sounds from the inner ear to the brain). Other causes include:
- Overexposure to high sound levels such as a gunshot, fireworks or a car airbag deployment
- Meniere’s disease
- Head injury
- Ear infections
- Hearing problems
If you are suffering from hyperacusis, it is important to communicate this to family, friends and loved ones. Armed with this knowledge and understanding, they can often contribute to making your environment quieter and thus more comfortable.
Other common hyperacusis coping tips include:
- Sound therapy machines, CDs or audio files to help you relax
- Ear plugs to help you turn down the volume in noisy environments
- iPod tracks such as white noise or pink noise