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Ask an Audiologist: How Do I Deal With My Noise Sensitivity?

Ask an Audiologist

I have noise sensitivity and I am only 14. I never knew why and it comes with head aches, exhaustion, and anxiety. For example, loud chit chat, music, television, and industrial loud sounds trigger my symptoms the most. Can you please explain what may be causing it and how to eliminate it, if possible.

Audiologist Response

Hi there,

Thank you for your submission to Ask an Audiologist.

It sounds like you may be suffering from increased sensitivity to noise, or hyperacusis.

Hyperacusis can affect people of all ages. It is defined by a reduced tolerance to everyday sounds. Noises that are usually well tolerated by most people (loud conversation, noisy restaurants) may be unbearable to sufferers of hyperacusis and cause discomfort, pain and other symptoms such as headaches and nausea. Hyperacusis is a serious condition that may cause distress and have a significant impact on quality of life.

Hyperacusis is still not well understood. It is generally agreed that the issue is related to the way the brain processes auditory information. In other words, while your ears may hear the exact same sounds as everyone else’s, the way the brain reacts to those sounds may be intensified.

Hyperacusis can be caused by different things. Chronic fatigue, stress, depression, headaches and migraines, head injury, loud noise exposure and hearing loss have all been known to trigger symptoms. The severity of the symptoms can improve over time, especially if the underlying condition is addressed.

For most hyperacusis sufferers, the initial reaction is to try to avoid known triggers, either by wearing hearing protection such as earplugs and ear muffs or even to withdraw from noisy environments all together. While this may seem sensible and provide temporary relief, it may worsen your symptoms in the long run.  For this reason, it is recommended you consult a health professional.

I suggest you start by making an appointment for a free hearing test. At Hearing Solutions, one of our certified clinicians will complete a thorough hearing assessment that may provide some insight as to what may be causing your sensitivity to noise and how to help manage your symptoms.

A common type of treatment consists of sound therapy or sound desensitization. This involves very gradually increasing exposure to noise with the goal of improving tolerance. This can be achieved with the use of noise-generating devices to help the brain adapt to everyday sounds.

Our audiologist or hearing instrument specialist may also refer you, with the help of your family physician, to another health professional as needed.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any additional questions.

 

Catherine L’Heureux is an Audiologist registered with CASLPO working for Hearing Solutions. Currently, Catherine sees patients at the St. Laurent Hearing Solutions clinic in Ottawa, Ontario.

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