What Is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis, also referred to as collapsed sound tolerance, occurs when normal, everyday sounds become uncomfortably loud or even painful. It can come on suddenly or gradually get worse. In hyperacusis, ordinary sounds can create annoyance, irritation, or discomfort. Due to a fear of being exposed to these sounds, those suffering from hyperacusis often become more withdrawn and isolated if the problem is not evaluated and managed effectively. There are many causes for hyperacusis. It can be a symptom of a medical condition. However, it is not unusual to find no clear reason for it. A thorough audiological and medical evaluation is critical for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

What Causes Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis affects approximately 40% of tinnitus patients, but it can occur in isolation. Research is greatly needed to understand the exact pathophysiology of the condition, but many agree that it is related to over-amplification (hyperactivity) in the hearing system. This can be caused by excessive exposure to loud noise 9whether sudden or gradual), reduced hearing, and other possibilities. Hyperacusis varies between and within individuals, and, like tinnitus, it depends on each person’s emotional state and listening environment. If no underlying medical condition exists, audiological management using sound therapy and counseling can be quite successful. The methods to promote sound desensitization for hyperacusis are very similar to managing tinnitus.

Evaluation and Management

Hearing & Balance Specialists of Kansas City believes that understanding each individual’s experience with sound sensitivity will help direct the treatment plan accordingly. Each patient who visits our clinic benefits from a thorough case history, patient interview, and diagnostic audiological evaluation. In some cases, we can identify the presence of hyperacusis in the sound booth as well as provide a tinnitus assessment when they coexist. These results are described in detail following the evaluation.

If audiological management is indicated, sound sensitivity conditions are managed in a similar way to tinnitus. Although each individual is unique, a combination approach using sound therapy and counseling (or coaching) has been shown to be successful. Please contact our office for more information.