Imagine waking up and finding everyday sounds too loud. You might find talking quietly, eating or even the sound of the shower is just too loud! Yet these sounds that are uncomfortably loud to you, everyone else finds ok!
The term often used for when everyday sounds are perceived as uncomfortably loud is hyperacusis. I prefer the words “decreased sound tolerance”. There is a lot of confusion and misuse of the words we use in audiology to describe sound tolerance issues.
Some of the terms we use are misophonia, photophobia, vestibular hyperacusis, reactive tinnitus, distortion of sound, diplacusis and tonic tensor tympani syndrome (TTS). They are all variations of sound tolerance problems.
It is sometimes triggered by specific medical conditions, so it is recommended that you seek expert audiological opinion.In other people, a negative life event appears to be associated with the onset. However the cause is often unclear. There is a high incidence of sound tolerance issues in those who experience severe tinnitus.
The term sound sensitivity is not recommended as it inaccurately suggests the ability to detect sounds others cannot hear ie supersonic hearing.
Hyperacusis is a symptom that can be a minor nuisance to some, while for others it is a life altering experience. Treatment for sound tolerance issues involve excluding with your medical practitioner treatable medical conditions, desensitisation, demystifying what is happening, and specific sound therapy designed to enrich your life with sound.
The irony of sound tolerance is withdrawal to quiet situations only makes it worse.
Early intervention also makes a big difference. So you or anyone you know is finding everyday sounds too loud, it is recommended they see a specialist audiologist in this field.
I am looking forward to being part of an expert panel of the first conference on tinnitus, misphonia and hyperacusis to be held this month in Australia where we will be examining these topics from the perspectives of neuroscience as well as psychological and audiological approaches.
All information is provided in the interests of Hearing Health education and is of a general nature. In all cases you should consult your doctor or other allied health professional for advice regarding your individual circumstances.