Hyperacusis Specialists Northern Utah Locals Trust

Do sounds like children screaming, machinery or electrical devices, and sharp, high-pitched noises like car alarms or bus brakes cause you to cringe and look for an escape? Although none of us enjoy these sounds, those experiencing hyperacusis experience them at an increased level of intensity that causes an enormous amount of discomfort.

A young woman suffering from hyperacusis - sensitivity to high pitched sounds
Car Alarm

In general, hyperacusis affects between 1% and 20% of the population with a higher rate of prevalence in women than men. Although it is more common among individuals with specific conditions (WS, tinnitus, and autism), hyperacusis also exists in the normal hearing population, increasing with age.

If sounds that did not bother you in the past cause you a great deal of discomfort and make you want to isolate yourself from them, you may benefit from hyperacusis counseling and therapy.

Is there someone who provides hyperacusis treatment near me?

Fortunately, there is. Utah Ear Institute provides hyperacusis testing and counseling in our Bountiful, Tooele, Park City, and West Valley City hearing and balance clinics.

Hyperacusis and Its Causes

In individuals with hyperacusis, the brain confuses or exaggerates certain vibrations, so even though they experience the same signals as others, the brain reacts differently to them, intensifying them to a point of causing pain.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, some nerve cells in the inner ear can signal tissue damage in a way similar to pain-sensing nerve cells in the body. Hypersensitivity to loud sound, or hyperacusis, is a paradoxical consequence of damage to nerve cells in the inner ear that leads to hearing loss in many people.

There are two types of hyperacusis. Cochlear hyperacusis, the most common form, causes a mild to severe pain as a result of intolerance to everyday noises, while vestibular hyperacusis causes vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and a general sense of imbalance.

Hyperacusis usually stems from having certain diseases or health issues, such as:

Man suffering from sound sensitivity siting on a couch
  • An injury to your head
  • Damage to one or both ears by ototoxic medications or other toxins
  • Excessive exposure to loud noise
  • Bell’s Palsy (infection of your inner ear or facial nerve)
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Lyme disease
  • Tay-Sachs disease
  • Migraine headaches
  • Frequent use of valium
  • Certain kinds of epilepsy
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Autism
  • Jaw or face surgery
  • Williams Syndrome (WS)
A running faucet

Hyperacusis Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of hyperacusis that may affect your everyday life include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Ear pain
  • Vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and a general sense of imbalance
  • Relationship problems
  • Trouble connecting with others (social isolation and avoidance)

Some of the sounds that tend to be intensified and produce irritation in those with hyperacusis include:

  • A running faucet
  • A kitchen appliance, like a refrigerator or dishwasher
  • A car engine
  • A loud conversation

The intensity or irritation caused by these sounds varies from one person to another, causing mild psychological symptoms to more severe symptoms, such as a loss of balance or seizures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is hyperacusis diagnosed?

Hyperacusis is diagnosed by using a comprehensive hearing evaluation that includes a conversation about your medical and family history, occupational and social activities, a physical examination of your ears, and instrument testing (e.g., tympanometric, true tone audiometry, bone conduction test, etc.).

Does hyperacusis cause hearing loss?

Hyperacusis is certainly annoying and is often related to hearing loss associated with particular frequencies, but it is a symptom of damage to the auditory system rather than a cause.

Does hyperacusis cause tinnitus?

Many with tinnitus also experience hyperacusis and vice versa, but having one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed to develop the other.

Can hyperacusis cause dizziness, vertigo, or balance disorders?

Those with vestibular hyperacusis can experience these conditions.

How long does hyperacusis last?

Indefinitely without some sort of intervention by a hearing care professional.

Can hyperacusis get better?

Usually hyperacusis does not go away on its own but requires successful medical treatment, which is why seeking appropriate help even in the condition’s early stages is critical.

What Our Delighted Patients Say

Hyperacusis Counseling and Treatment

Since hyperacusis symptoms worsen as a result of sound exposure, many make the logical decision to isolate themselves from sound. However, individuals who undergo treatments that encourage the gradual reintroduction of sound see improvement in sound tolerance while those who do not seek counseling or treatment see no improvement.

Treatment for hyperacusis includes the use of two elements: sound therapy and counseling. Sound therapy elements involved in the treatment of hyperacusis typically include:

  • Continuous low-level broadband noise
  • Successive approximations to high levels of noise
  • Successive approximations to troublesome sounds
  • Partial masking with a variety of sounds (including music)
A senior male getting his hearing tested for hyperacusis evaluation at Utah Ear Institute

Counseling for hyperacusis is a critical part of addressing pain, setbacks, and emotions that may arise from sound exposure and may include:

Hyperacusis Activities Treatment (HAT)

This treatment is a modification of tinnitus activities treatment, which seeks to help the patient recognize the relationship between the loudness of a sound and his or her reaction to it. The approach tends to use shared decision making rather than directive counseling that may include evaluation of thoughts and emotions, hearing and communication, sleep, and concentration.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

Initially developed to treat tinnitus, TRT uses a combination of broadband noise and counseling to treat hyperacusis. The counseling presumes that central auditory gain is the primary mechanism of hyperacusis, which leads to feelings of fear and/or annoyance from sound and then applies directive counseling.

TRT involves the gradual reintroduction of sound with pre-exposure to safe sounds while gradually increasing exposure to louder sounds, which is known as auditory toughening.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is conducted by a psychologist and can be an effective supplemental treatment. When applied to hyperacusis, CBT is similar to the counseling that accompanies Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. The common theme in these approaches relates to changing maladaptive thought patterns in order to change behavior patterns. Using CBT for hyperacusis, the emphasis is on sound enrichment (confronting sound rather than avoiding sound).

Schedule a Hearing Assessment

If you’re over the age of 40 and everyone around you seems to be mumbling, you’re experiencing ringing or buzzing in your ears, it’s easier to understand men than women and children, or if it is becoming impossible to enjoy a night out because of background noise, you could be experiencing an age-related hearing loss.

Before your condition deteriorates further, leading to additional negative physical and mental conditions, seek the help of our licensed professional audiologists at Utah Ear Institute for counseling and treatment for presbycusis.

Just submit the adjacent form so a member of our team can give you a call and help you start the process by scheduling a hearing assessment.

"*" indicates required fields

Your Name*

Ask Dr. Josh

While misophonia can be a significant part of your life, it doesn't define you. The journey of understanding, acceptance, and management is ongoing.

When Chewing Sounds Make You Want to Flip the Dinner Table: Understanding and Treating Misophonia

Imagine sitting at a dinner table for a lovely meal. The atmosphere is jovial, but then the chewing, slurping, or gnashing starts. And suddenly, everything feels off balance. If you've…...
Is Costco right for your hearing loss?

What’s the Difference Between Buying Hearing Aids From Costco vs. The Utah Ear Institute?

With a Costco store not far from one of our offices, we’re regularly asked why we deserve your business when you could just buy a hearing aid from…...

Unsteady Ground: The Hidden Struggles of Balance and Dizziness Among Seniors

As we age we face many challenges, and the increase in dizziness and imbalance is one of the most prominent. Affecting a large percentage of the older generation, balance issues…...