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Image shows a woman finding a sound painful to hear

Hyperacusis

Hyperacusis is a medical term used to describe any abnormal discomfort caused by sounds that are tolerable to listeners with ordinary hearing.

It’s often viewed as a phenomenon – because it’s a subjective experience, it cannot be measured directly and is, consequently, very difficult to study and to diagnose.

What is hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis should be distinguished from another phenomenon known as recruitment. Recruitment is commonly associated with hearing loss caused by damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear, where weak sounds cannot be heard, but louder sounds are perceived at their normal level, and may cause the listener discomfort and pain.

Hyperacusis and hearing loss

Many people who experience hyperacusis have no detectable hearing loss, (the ears are working normally) although it can be linked with other hearing problems such as tinnitus (buzzing or ringing in the ears) and Ménière’s disease (vertigo combined with a hearing loss and tinnitus). Others do have a hearing loss and the fitting of hearing aids needs careful consideration.

Image shows a young child holding her ear in discomfort 

FAQs about hyperacusis