What is Hyperacusis?

What is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is a hearing condition that causes a heightened sensitivity to sound, making everyday noises, like running water, seem extremely loud.

This can make it difficult to carry out daily tasks in common environments, such as chores at home or workplace responsibilities. In turn, you might try to avoid social situations that could lead to anxiety, stress, and social isolation from exposure to noise.

About 8 to 15 percent of adults have hyperacusis. This condition often affects people who have tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Read on to learn more about the symptoms and potential causes of hyperacusis. We’ll also cover treatment options and how each one works.

Hyperacusis is a low tolerance for sound in one or both ears. It’s also known as an increased sensitivity to sound.

The condition affects the way you perceive loudness. It makes ordinary sounds, such as car engines, seem extremely loud. Even your own voice might seem too loud to you at times.

The perception of excessive loudness may cause pain and irritation, resulting in high levels of stress. It can also make it difficult to be in public settings like work or school. This can lead to:

Hyperacusis primarily affects people who:

Adults are more likely to develop hyperacusis since aging is associated with this condition. However, it can affect children, too.

Hyperacusis symptoms can vary. Mild symptoms can include:

  • ordinary sounds seeming too loud
  • your own voice sounding too loud
  • discomfort in your ears
  • difficulty concentrating

Severe symptoms can include:

In children, discomfort due to hyperacusis may cause symptoms like crying or screaming.

Hyperacusis is also associated with conditions like:

It’s worth noting that hyperacusis is different from phonophobia — the fear of loud sounds.

Hyperacusis affects the way you hear sounds. Phonophobia is a psychological condition that involves an emotional response to sounds. It doesn’t involve auditory issues.

However, hyperacusis can lead to phonophobia due to the perceived excessive loudness of certain sounds, so the two conditions may appear together.

Possible causes of hyperacusis include:

  • High noise exposure. Loud noise is a major cause of hyperacusis. Exposure can happen over time (like playing loud music for many years) or a single occurrence (like hearing a gunshot).
  • Head injury. An injury involving the head, jaw, or ear can lead to hyperacusis. One example is getting hit with an airbag in a car.
  • Viral infections. Viral infections that affect the facial nerve or inner ear may lead to hyperacusis.
  • Jaw or face surgery. Hyperacusis can happen if the inner ear or facial nerve is damaged during surgery.
  • Some medications. Certain medications, like some cancer drugs, can cause ear damage and hyperacusis.
  • Autoimmune disorders. Hyperacusis can be caused by autoimmune conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder. The temporomandibular joint attaches your lower jaw to your skull. Problems with this joint may increase your risk of hearing issues, like hyperacusis.
  • Autism. Autism or autism spectrum conditions can cause hearing sensitivities, including hyperacusis. According to 2015 research, about 40 percent of autistic children also have hyperacusis.
  • Emotional stress. High levels of stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can increase your risk of hyperacusis.
3 ways music educators can help students with autism develop their emotions

3 ways music educators can help students with autism develop their emotions

Many children with autism struggle to find the words to express how they feel. But when it comes to music, it’s an entirely different situation.

Evidence suggests children with autism may enjoy music and show an early desire for music education .

I am a mother to three young adult sons with high-functioning autism. I got them involved in music from a young age, and they learned to communicate their emotions by playing bassoon, French horn and baritone. As a doctoral student and music teacher, I have seen the emotional transformation from music happen in both my music classroom and my home. I’d like to share what I have learned. The backstory

From 2003 to 2018, I owned and operated the Center for Education School of the Arts and Sciences in Tampa, Florida. It was a K-12 school of the arts for students with learning and developmental disabilities.

Everyone in the school was required to join a music group, such as concert band, musical theater, jazz band or chamber ensemble. They all studied in private lessons on their instruments with me, as the school’s music teacher. I saw what I believe to be incredible musical and emotional growth in students with autism after they began to study music.

For example, there was one student who was unable to speak but could hum melodies. I gradually realized that she hummed different tunes for the emotions she was feeling, even though she couldn’t communicate them verbally. Her eyes always matched her emotions as she hummed the story she couldn’t tell.

Another student with Asperger’s disorder took private piano and composition lessons with me. He could talk, but he couldn’t explain how he felt. On days he felt sad, he played a piece of music he had composed to express it. Likewise, he had composed pieces for happy, angry and lonely.


Studies show that children with autism can understand both simple and complex emotions in music and are more responsive to sensory stimulation compared with other children – especially in music, even over speech or noise . This may explain why some children with autism are musical savants. CBS interviews Rex Lewis-Clack, a 13-year-old piano prodigy with autism. Musical emotions aren’t understood the same way as regular emotions. They don’t require complex facial expressions or a “tone of voice,” which are particularly difficult for children with autism to recognize . Musical emotions are easier for children with autism spectrum disorder to grasp because they are a less socially complex. Incorporate music in […]

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