Hyperacusis and PTSD: How Are They Linked?

Hyperacusis and PTSD: How Are They Linked?

It’s a noisy world. Even when you try to sit in perfect silence, there’s often the constant hum of a household device or lightbulb nearby. And for people with hyperacusis, it’s often those “quiet” everyday sounds that cause the most distress. 

Hyperacusis is the technical term for this rare hearing disorder. When a person has this condition, some sounds can be uncomfortable — or even unbearably loud — while others aren’t. Think of it as the volume being turned up way too high, instead of with variable degrees of loudness.

While hyperacusis is one of the more rare hearing disorders, up to 86% of people with symptoms also have tinnitus. And nearly half have a behavioral condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Sharp Hearing Care Professionals team understands the complex nature of audiology disorders and their links to other conditions, like hyperacusis and PTSD. Here, we explain the connection.

Understanding hyperacusis

It’s natural to have an adverse response to a loud sound. But with hyperacusis, this reaction occurs from everyday sounds, such as:

Sometimes, even the person’s own voice can seem unbearably loud.

When exposed to the sound, a person with hyperacusis can experience intense pain and irritation, making it difficult to spend time in public settings, including school and work. It can also cause profound stress.

Without treatment, people with hyperacusis can become withdrawn, depressed, and isolated. They can also develop phonophobia — a fear of loud noises.

PTSD and hyperacusis

In the past, little was known about the exact cause of hyperacusis. However, experts knew it was more common in individuals with behavioral conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD develops in up to 10% of people who experience trauma. While it’s often associated with combat exposure, it can occur from a variety of causes, such as:

This condition can cause numerous mood changes and stress responses, including flashbacks, nightmares, and avoiding situations.

New research also reveals that PTSD causes changes in the brain and how it processes sound. When someone has PTSD, their brain becomes trained to overprocess any change in their environment. 

Think of it like an auditory hypervigilance of sorts. This increases the person’s chances of developing the sound sensitivities associated with hyperacusis.

Fortunately, there’s hope.

Diagnosing and treating hyperacusis

The most important thing is to see an expert if you struggle with sounds in your daily life — whether they’re too loud or too soft.

Our specialists have the tools and skills you need to evaluate your hearing and detect potential issues. And once we have a clear understanding of what’s causing your symptoms, we can outline a personalized course of action.

Treating hyperacusis varies from person to person. However, strategies often include:

If there’s a structural issue behind your symptoms, we could also suggest a surgical correction. Research teams are conducting more studies to test additional potential treatments for people with audiology sensitivities and PTSD. 

Rest assured that our team stays current with the latest information to ensure you get the most effective treatment. Don’t wait to find solutions.

If you have PTSD and you’re experiencing hyperacusis, contact Sharp Hearing Care Professionals to schedule a consultation. We’re located in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Tarzana, California.

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