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Posted on Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis, an unusual reaction to sound, can make enjoying an orchestra like this impossible.

Hyperacusis is an unusual and reactive sensitivity to various frequencies of sound. It can occur, just like Hearing loss, after sudden or prolonged exposure to loud sounds. Unlike Noise Induced Hearing Loss, however, it is thought that the cause of this sound sensitivity lies not in the delicate hairs within the inner ear, but the more complex system of auditory processing within the brain.

A majority of people who have hyperacusis also have tinnitus, but this is not to say that tinnitus causes hyperacusis. Hyperacusis can be caused by exposure to loud noise, trauma, Meniere's disease, lyme disease, surgery, chronic ear infections, ototoxicity (reaction to medication), and autoimmune disorders to name a few. Hyperacusis can come on suddenly or happen slowly over many years. Like hearing loss, it can be mild to severe, and can cause the individual to experience phantom sounds along with the sensitivity to real noises. There are two kinds of hyperacusis, cochlear and vestibular.

Cochlear hyperacusis is thought to be caused by poor dysfunctions in brain chemistry, head trauma, changes in the transmission of electrical signals, or as a symptom of Meniere’s disease. It can also be associated with tinnitus. The person with cochlear hyperacusis can experience moderate or even low sounds as too loud. To this person the crumpling of paper can seem like the blast from a trumpet. Common physical reactions are covering ears, leaving a room, severe to moderate ear pain, and in rare cases seizures. Common emotional reactions include annoyance, anger, and panic attacks.

Vestibular hyperacusis is a loss of balance due to exposure to sound. Someone suffering from vestibular hyperacusis experiences sound as a physical energy that creates dizzy spells and disturbs balance. Vestibular hyperacusis is thought to be the result of damage to the nerve cells. This damage can occur from lack of oxygen, chemical ingestions, or problems with the circulatory system.

What Other Condition Can Make Sounds Seem Louder?

Hyperacusis is not the only reason that some people experience some sounds as being louder than others. Hearing loss can also have this impact on people's hearing. Hearing loss occurs at many different frequencies and has different results for each individual. The effects mean that some people experience the drop and fall of sounds or what is called as Hearing loss recruitment. In these cases, the hearing loss seems to lower and then become inexplicably louder. The sounds which are louder seem out of place or too loud because of the conditioning of the mind to straining to hear the softer sounds. Fortunately, today's hearing aids are designed to compensate for this condition.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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