Hyperacusis is an over-sensitivity to sounds. For those individuals experiencing hyperacusis some everyday sounds (the dishes, the vacuum, laughter, riding in the car etc.) may be uncomfortable or even painful for them. The first step for a person with hyperacusis is to get a complete evaluation by an Otolaryngologist (ENT) and an Audiologist. A variety of possible causes will be examined, such as: head injury, Air bag deployment, Lyme disease, recent medications, TMJ syndrome as well as other conditions. A full Audiological evaluation (hearing test) will be conducted as well as LDL’s (Loudness Discomfort Levels). This will give information as to the degree of sensitivity and if it is for most sounds or just at certain frequencies.
Once a treatable medical cause is ruled out then the question arises-What can help? Many patients with hyperacusis want to wear earplugs most of the time. They need to be counselled that this will not allow the brain to ever retrain itself to tolerate sounds. While we all need to wear hearing protection around lawn equipment, power tools, guns, concerts and other loud events the person with hyperacusis does not need to wear them during everyday life. We also do not want the individual to withdraw from life and live in an isolated, sound controlled environment.
Treatment usually consists of wearing ear level sound generators that produce a soft sound similar to a “shhhhhh” (pink noise or white noise are the most common sounds used). Over time, several months up to a year the brain usually learns to tolerate the sounds in the persons environment so that they aren’t made uncomfortable anymore.
You may have heard someone say that hearing people chew actually makes them angry. It may be another type of noise but individuals with Misophonia have a severe reaction to certain if not specific sounds.
Once again, an evaluation by an ENT physician and an Audiologist are the appropriate professionals to see if you feel you are suffering from Misophonia. The treatment is usually similar to the hyperacusis treatment. The sound generator is used at a low level to help distract you from the annoying sound.