Hyperacusis is a sound intolerance disorder where moderately loud sounds are perceived as extremely loud. This may lead to withdrawal from noisy environments or overprotection of ears from noise. Neither option is recommended. Sometimes individuals with tinnitus (ringing in the ears or head) have hyperacusis which can make their condition worse if not treated first.
If you know someone who is sensitive to moderately loud sounds it is recommended that they have a hyperacusis assessment to determine the possible cause of the condition and treatment options.
This 90 minute appointment includes the completion of a hyperacusis intake form and a scored questionnaire determining the impact of the condition on every day activities. It also includes a full hearing assessment and assessment of uncomfortable levels. For children, the assessment is based on parental report and a hearing assessment is performed.
Hyperacusis treatment is focused on expanding the individual’s tolerance to loud sounds. If the patient is an adult, hyperacusis treatment may include the use of ear level sound generators. These devices are worn all day every day and turned up gradually over time. This process usually takes 6-8 weeks.
If the patient is a child, hyperacusis treatment involves the development of a desensitization program. The program focuses on providing the child with control and support when possible over the target sound. It also exposes them to the target sound slowly over a prescribed period of time in a stress free environment with a positive reinforcement or reward system.
In some cases, psychothearpy is also recommended to support individuals with sound intolerance disorders such as severe hyperacusis, misophonia and phonophobia.