Listening to a laugh, hearing a child’s voice or the happy barking of a dog, or going to a concert with our favorite band are things that appeal to most of us.
These are more or less common sounds of our daily life that accompany us and are part of our lives. however, for people with hyperacusis which, for the most part, seems normal and even pleasant, is real torture.
And it is that these people suffer from a high level of discomfort with the auditory stimulation. What is hyperacusis? In this article, we analyze this assignment.
Hyperacusis: concept and symptoms
Hyperacusis is understood to mean that condition in which who suffers from it shows a decrease in the threshold of sound tolerance. It is a type of hypersensitivity that makes it difficult for the person to tolerate sounds that are normative for others because they cause them a varying degree of pain or discomfort. It is common for reactions to occur especially to loud and sudden sounds or to repetitive and continuous sounds, which can be torture for those who suffer from them.
It is important to take into account an aspect often taken for granted: hyperacusis does not imply a greater hearing capacity of the affected person compared to the rest, this capacity being normal or even suffering from a certain type of hearing problem. . In other words, it’s not that they hear more than others, but that their nerve pathways respond more easily and have less ability to resist sounds.
Cognitively, hyperacusis tends to cause problems with maintaining attention and concentrating.. It can also lead to increased irritability due to the persistence of sounds that cannot be avoided, as well as behavioral avoidance of those sound sources that annoy them. They often suffer from symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus, or physical and mental fatigue. Also sleep problems.
On top of all this, people with hyperacusis often have social issues related to their intolerance to sounds. This problem is generally not well understood socially and can be very limiting. And it is that by causing the suffering of the sounds from day to day, it is frequent that they avoid or they get easily irritated in front of sound sources which for others are harmless and even pleasant. In many cases, they avoid places of congestion, which today is difficult to achieve in urban areas. In some cases, they decide to isolate-restrict social contact.
The causes of this type of condition, which can occur in isolation and be a symptom of another medical problem (such as Williams syndrome), are not fully understood. It is speculated on the existence of damage or deterioration of the auditory pathways, especially in the cochlea.
These lesions can be found in the inner ear or in the brain. The damage in question can have multiple causes, which can range from the presence of birth defects or deformities to acquired causes. These include exposure to large amounts of continuous noise, which can damage nerve connections and sensitize them. It can also result from damage caused by a head trauma (which is why some people who have had car accidents would have called it a problem) or even from the consumption of certain substances.
At the hormonal level, serotonin appears to be involved, with alterations in the serotonergic pathways being another possible cause of this problem. In some cases, deprivation of stimuli such as etiology is also offered, but it is unlikely.
traditionally the advice given to those who suffer from hyperacusis is to avoid noises that bother them, Or use barrier methods that reduce sound. This prevents suffering, but in the long run it makes the hearing system more sensitive by not being used to dealing with sounds. In addition, it makes it even more difficult to lead a normal life.
It is more recommended that the patient be exposed in a controlled manner to ambient noise levels. It is recommended that those who suffer from it have devices that help them generate a noise low enough so that it is not particularly harmful to them but that it stimulates them, trying to gradually make the nervous system adapt to them. most common sounds. In other words, it is about generating a progressive desensitization which over time can reduce the sensitivity of the system.
Another fundamental aspect to be dealt with is the psychoeducation of the subject and his environment. This last aspect is essential because of the great difficulty that can suppose the comprehension of the suffering of the patient in front of stimuli considered as “normal”, to demystify certain aspects associated with this problem and to contribute to generate patterns of behavior and socialization. that make the subject feel. . socially supported.
Pharmacologically, they usually use benzodiazepines, SSRI antidepressants (remember that serotonin has been associated with some cases of hyperacusis) or even anticonvulsants. At the medical level, surgical-type methods have sometimes been used, although this is not common.
It may be necessary to work on the possible occurrence of depressive episodes or to conduct training in anxiety management and stress management, which can be both a product and a trigger of noise sensitivity. of these people.