Sensitivity to sound
Sound sensitivity refers to discomfort to noise that most people would not find intrusive. It includes hyperacusis.
We offer help with sound therapy, relaxation, gradual re-introduction of sound, general life-style and stress management.
What is sound sensitivity?
People with sound sensitivity find it difficult to tolerate everyday sounds that most people would not find particularly loud. Typical examples are clattering cutlery or crockery, the vacuum cleaner and some voices.
Increased sound sensitivity can occur with tinnitus, but it can be present on its own too. It occurs both in adults and children, and is present both in individuals with normal hearing and hearing loss.
Sound sensitivity is often called Hyperacusis. In fact, hyperacusis is just one type of sound sensitivity. Hyperacusis refers to sensitivity to all sounds above a certain level of loudness. However, people may experience a dislike of a smaller number of specific sounds – this is called misophonia. If your response to specific sounds is particularly strong, then you may have phonophobia. However, don’t worry about the different types – if you dislike noise this applies to you.
Why does it happen?
Sound sensitivity is a bit like having your internal volume control turned up – the auditory system becomes more sensitive, and therefore you hear sound louder. When this internal volume control turns up the volume of internally generated sound you may become aware of tinnitus too, and sound sensitivity is more common with tinnitus than on its own.
Often people become fearful and anxious about sounds that they find uncomfortably loud. This leads to negative thoughts about those sounds. Negative thoughts can lead to a heightened emotional response to sounds, and this emotional response will increase sensitivity to sound – a vicious circle.
People tend to mistakenly think that just because sound is uncomfortable it is causing damage, however most of the time people with sound sensitivity are finding sounds uncomfortable that are not at a level that can cause damage.
Sound sensitivity management
Sound sensitivity management is provided both for adults and children. Please obtain a referral from your GP or other medical specialist prior to arranging an appointment.
There are three main approaches, which are often used together – firstly re-training responses to sound, secondly gradual re-introduction of safe sound, and thirdly wearable sound generators. It is very important to avoid plugging your ears unless for hearing protection purposes, as reducing ambient sound can, in fact, increase sound sensitivity when the ear plugs are removed.
We also offer help with relaxation, general lifestyle and stress management.
Retraining responses to sound
Re-training responses to uncomfortable sounds is important as negative thoughts and strong emotions about these sounds serve to increase the auditory system’s sensitivity to sound. We do a careful hearing assessment, and then discuss the results with you. We provide advice on safe sound levels, and help you to understand which sounds you should worry about, and which sounds are ok.
Re-introduction of sound
Many people with sound sensitivity avoid the sounds that cause discomfort. This can have an enormous impact on life quality, and some people wear ear plugs most of the time to begin with. The sooner we can start getting you gradually back into a normal sound world the better, as avoiding sound can, ironically, increase your sensitivity to it.
Specialised sound therapy
Sound therapy, particularly using wearable sound generators, has been shown to be particularly effective. We are not talking loud, uncomfortable sound here – we are talking comfortable “sound cushions” that can be adjusted to remove the discomfort that you get from environmental sound.