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Hyperacusis is defined as a reduced tolerance to normal environmental sounds and everyday sounds become unbearably or painfully loud. In short, hyperacusis refers to the increased sensitivity to sound. People with hyperacusis feel as though the volume control in their brain is stuck on HIGH! The alteration in the central processing of sound often associates with Hyperacusis.

People suffering from hyperacusis have been somehow exposed to loud noises. Your ears loose most of their ability to deal with quick shifts in sound capacity (loudness). This results in a sudden intolerance to sound that is not 'really' noisy. Normal sounds suddenly become irritating and painful to tolerate.

Hyperacusis is a disturbing condition that usually results in lack of concentration and low productivity. Hyperacusis can also be known as any of the following:

  • Dysacusis
  • Oxylacusis
  • Hypersensitive hearing
  • Phonophobia

However, not all sounds of the same loudness (number of decibels) cause discomfort, but only sounds within a certain range, thus a small change of frequency may cause discomfort at low volume. Most individuals with hyperacusis have difficulty tolerating sounds which do not seem loud to others such as:

  • Dishwasher
  • Running faucet
  • Riding in a car
  • Walking on leaves
  • Ticking of the clock
  • Doors shutting

It is more prevalent in females, but hyperacusis can affect people of all ages and is sometimes accompanied by "ringing in the ears" (tinnitus). It can affect one or both ears. People with hyperacusis are not born sound sensitive, but develop a collapsed tolerance to sound from primarily noise trauma.

What causes Hyperacusis?

Little is known about hyperacusis because it is very rare. However, its onset often is associated with:

Damaged cochlea

The most suspect of Hyperacusis cause is damage to the cochlea (the cochlea is a coiled, tapered tube inside the inner ear, responsible for transmitting sound to the sensory organ of hearing) due to exposure to loud noises such as:

  • Gun shots
  • Fireworks
  • Loudspeakers at music concerts

Incorrect ear wax removal

ENT specialists are the only people who can best help remove excess ear wax. Most people damage their ear drums while incorrectly attempting to remove excess wax at home. General practitioners and nurses that are not skilled in this field may also not perform the procedure of ear wax removal.

The shock and noise of the ear wax removal if not correctly done, is a major cause of hyperacusis and noise induced tinnitus.

Other causes of hyperacusis include:

  • Head injury
  • Lyme disease
  • A sudden single burst of noise
  • Air bag deployment
  • The side effects of drugs
  • Surgery to the face or jaw
  • A gun shot blast

Hyperacusis patients find that their condition is worsened not only when they are exposed to noise, but also when they go too far to protect their ears from it. Silence can worsen the condition.

How long does Hyperacusis last for?

Since hyperacusis is a chronic disorder, it usually lasts approximately 8 - 12 weeks depending on the severity of the attack. However, even if severe, hyperacusis does not last longer than 24 weeks. If in any case symptoms show up after this period, other illnesses might have developed.

There are three other conditions that have similar characteristics where normal sounds are TOO LOUD to stand. Here are those conditions:

Hyperacute Hearing

It is a rare condition where a person can hear certain sounds at a much softer volume than a person with normal hearing. So if these sounds are even of a reasonable loudness, they can seem very loud.


Recruitment is a by product of hearing loss (sensorineural hearing loss). A person usually perceives volume increases much faster than the actual volume increase. This causes the sounds to rapidly become too loud to stand. Click here for more on Recruitment.


This is a mental condition where people become afraid of certain sounds that they associate with bad things. They usually perceive these sounds as much louder than they really are.

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