All about sound hypersensitivity (hyperacusis, hyperacusia)

Sound hypersensitivity means experiencing different types of sounds as unpleasant. For example, sounds may be perceived as higher or more cutting in the ears and lead to stress and anxiety.

Sound hypersensitivity can lead to a difficult everyday situation, since many of the sounds you respond to are common. Hypersensitivity as a medical diagnosis (hyperacusia) is primarily based on reacting to sounds that others do not perceive as disturbing. Some examples may be loud voices, child screams, paper rustling, porcelain and fan noise.

Sound hypersensitivity can lead to isolation

Hypersensitivity can often lead to stress, as you do your best to avoid situations where you are exposed to noise. Fear can lead to avoidant behavior where you eventually wear hearing protection even in situations when they are not needed. Isolation and phobophobia can be developed.

The extent of sound hypersensitivity can also vary depending on the day’s form. Symptoms can grow in strength when you sleep poorly, are exposed to stress or otherwise do not feel on top.

It is common to have tinnitus in connection with sound hypersensitivity. Sound hypersensitivity is not the same as hearing “too good”. On the contrary, most hypersensitive have normal hearing level.

Some occupational groups are more often affected by sound hypersensitivity, for example:

  • Musician
  • school staff
  • Restaurant and nightclub staff
  • Construction and factory workers

Causes of sound hypersensitivity

Sound hypersensitivity can be caused by many different factors, both physical and mental. Sometimes it can be a combination. In some cases, the exact cause of the trouble is not discovered. Since sound hypersensitivity is often a symptom of underlying disease, the source needs to be found and treated.

Diseases of the inner or middle ear

Sound hypersensitivity can occur in diseases affecting the ear, such as Meniere’s syndrome, Borrelia or middle ear inflammation.

Trauma after loud noises or head injuries

Exposure to excessive noise for a period of time can cause damage to the inner ear. Hearing impairments can cause loud sounds to have a ketchup effect; you hear weakly and then have a very powerful transition to the loud sounds. Skull injuries or whiplash injuries can also be traumas that lead to the development of sound hypersensitivity.

Depression and stress

Many impressions can be reinforced in a negative way when you feel mentally ill. Depression and stress can be triggering factors for sound hypersensitivity.

Autism and ADHD

Sound hypersensitivity is a common symptom of autism and ADHD. Many people suffering from the diagnosis have difficulty filtering out sounds in everyday life, which can lead to concentration difficulties.

Treatment of sound hypersensitivity

In some cases, sound hypersensitivity may disappear or be alleviated over time. However, it is important to dare to seek treatment if the inconvenience makes it difficult to manage everyday life. Another good step is to inform the surroundings of your problems to avoid misunderstandings and stress.

Audio Stimulation

Sound stimulation means that you slowly get used to sound exposure. There are devices that can be put behind the ear and emit weak sounds. The goal is to become better at tolerating sound impressions over time, with reduced hypersensitivity as a result.

KBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT

Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change one’s approach to the sounds that cause trouble. The purpose of KBT is to challenge and change negative behavioral patterns that limit life. ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Treatment) is a similar treatment that focuses on helping to live life to the fullest, despite limitations such as hypersensitivity.

Relaxation exercises and physical therapy

Sound sensitivity is often linked to different types of tension. Relaxation exercises and physical therapy can be a great way to counteract tension in the body and get good advice. Tensions in the body can be a contributing cause of sound hypersensitivity.

Hearing aids

Individually tailored hearing protectors can be a way to alleviate hypersensitivity. However, it is important not to protect yourself so much that you never come in contact with sound. If you isolate yourself too much from sound, you risk exacerbating your sound hypersensitivity.

There are also hearing aids for those with concentration difficulties in, for example, ADHD. For many people with concentration difficulties, it can be difficult to filter out sounds during lectures and other situations with surrounding sounds. Then you can, for example, have wireless headphones that are connected to the teacher’s microphone to make it easier to concentrate.


If the hypersensitivity is a result of depression or other mental illness, drugs may help with the symptom.

Dental Treatment

In some cases, sound hypersensitivity may be linked to incorrect bites or jaw problems. If these are addressed by a dentist, the voltage, and thus the sound sensitivity, can be reduced.

When should you seek care?

If sound hypersensitivity affects everyday life and limits life, you should seek care at a health care center. It is important to try to describe their problems carefully and to mention any other problems that may affect the sound hypersensitivity. In some cases, you may receive referral to hearing care, in other cases you may need help from other experts to start feeling better.

Living with sound hypersensitivity

When you are diagnosed with hypersensitivity, a long-term plan of action is usually made. Such a plan usually includes, among other things, the treatment of underlying diseases, strategies for managing sound and hearing skills. If the sound hypersensitivity arises as a result of a disease or injury, the symptoms often get better when the disease is treated.

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