Hyperacusis: all about this hearing disorder
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Hyperacusis: all about this hearing disorder

Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder characterized by hypersensitivity to sounds and noises. This hypersensitivity is restrictive, even painful in some cases. Appropriate medical care is necessary to reduce its effects and limit its development.

What are the causes of hyperacusis? What are the solutions? Let’s take stock of this symptom together.

How to recognize hyperacusis?

The definition of hyperacusis

Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder characterized by the increased perception of sounds. This means that a hyperacusis person is hypersensitive to sounds.

This hearing disorder should not be confused with normal sensitivity to surrounding noise. For a hyperacusic person, the sounds become annoying, unbearable, and even painful. It is also necessary to distinguish hyperacusis from hearing loss, which corresponds to hearing loss.

Features of hyperacusis

The characteristics of hyperacusis may vary depending on the case. Hypersensitivity can be:

  • unilateral or bilateral, when it concerns one or both ears;
  • more or less important, up to an intolerance of light and banal sounds.

What are the causes of this auditory hypersensitivity?

The mechanisms at the origin of hyperacusis are still poorly understood. However, several different causes have already been identified. These include:

  • aging;
  • certain emotional shocks, especially during post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • auditory sensory trauma, trauma caused by inadequate exposure to sound, including listening to amplified music;
  • facial paralysis, which is due to damage to the facial nerve;
  • autism, which is one of the pervasive developmental disorders;
  • head trauma, shocks whose intensity causes damage to different structures of the skull;
  • taking ototoxic drugs, which are substances that impair hearing functions.

What are the symptoms associated with hyperacusis?

This sensitivity to noises and sounds can occur in isolation, but can sometimes be accompanied by other uncomfortable symptoms such as:

  • migraines (headaches or headaches)
  • a localized pain in the ears, jaw, or neck
  • feeling congested (blocked ear)
  • intolerance to sounds;
  • fatigue
  • sleep disturbances.

Last but not least, according to current estimates, about 40% of people with tinnitus are affected by hyperacusis. Tinnitus is characterized by ringing or ringing sensations in the ear. It is sometimes said to feel a feeling of “resonance in the head”.

Hypersensitivity to noise: what are the consequences?

The consequences of hyperacusis vary depending on the case. Nevertheless, in general, this hearing disorder causes discomfort in everyday life.

Social isolation

In the most developed forms of hyperacusis, discomfort can be accompanied by pain and cause withdrawal. We talk about the self-preservation reflex. A hyperacusis person prefers to isolate himself so as not to be exposed to everyday noises.

In the long term, this avoidance strategy can amplify the symptom of hyperacusis. The brain assimilates the absence of noise as a hearing loss and will seek to compensate for it by increasing auditory perception. This has the effect of accentuating hypersensitivity to sounds.

Depression

In some cases, the evolution of hyperacusis can lead to the occurrence of the depressive syndrome. To limit the risk of complications, early medical management is necessary.

How to treat and prevent hyperacusis?

Diagnosis of the cause

The diagnosis of hyperacusis is usually made by an otolaryngologist. A complete ENT check-up is often necessary to identify the cause of hypersensitivity.

Treatment of hyperacusis

Management of hyperacusis depends on the diagnosis. Most of the time, it involves a multidisciplinary team, which may involve an otolaryngologist, an audio prosthetist, and a psychologist.

When hyperacusis is treated early, the wearing of noisemakers is frequently recommended. These are medical devices that can soften certain sounds and can lead to total healing in 6 to 8 months.

In the most developed forms of hyperacusis, management usually requires psychological follow-up. Sophrology sessions, or cognitive and behavioral therapies, can be set up to fight against the isolation of hyperacusic people.

Prevention of this hearing disorder

Musicians have a higher risk of developing hypersensitivity to noises and sounds over the long term. It is therefore necessary to protect yourself by wearing hearing protection.

Similarly, stress and anxiety are factors that can aggravate this hearing disorder, so it is important to find a way to reduce stress.

Image Credit: Image by Freepik

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