In this blog you will learn:

  • Misophonia and hyperacusis are two forms of sensitive hearing.
  • Misophonia causes strong emotional responses to sounds, whereas hyperacusis causes physical discomfort.
  • Both conditions can be treated effectively with hearing aids and therapeutic interventions.

Have you ever experienced a sound that you couldn’t stand? Sensitive hearing is a common issue that can have a big impact on your quality of life. If you suffer from this issue, you likely know it. However, you may not realize that multiple conditions cause auditory sensitivity. Understanding the difference between misophonia and hyperacusis can help you to find the right treatment for you.

What Is Misophonia?

Whether it is an annoying click, click, click, or someone obnoxiously chewing, sounds can be irritating. If you experience this frequently, you may have misophonia. This condition is a strong emotional response to one or more specific sounds. Typically, the result is feelings of anxiety, anger, or irritation.

Responses can vary significantly between people; some may experience relatively mild responses to a few sounds, while others may have very severe responses to singular sounds. Furthermore, what those sounds are can vary between people. There tend to be some commonalities. Clicks, taps, slurps, and crunches are usual suspects. However, the condition is very much an individual experience.

Importantly, misophonia does not cause an unusual activation of the auditory system. Instead, many experts believe that patients associate the “trigger sounds” with earlier experiences, resulting in a strong emotional response. This characteristic is part of what helps to differentiate misophonia from hyperacusis.

What Is Hyperacusis?

Much like misophonia, hyperacusis involves an elevated response to sound. However, it does cause an abnormal reactivity in the auditory system. The result can be substantial pain or discomfort. Furthermore, this is a response to sound in general or, in some cases, a range of frequencies. Thus, while a clicking pen could irritate the condition, a jackhammer out on the street is likely to also irritate it.

Since it is largely a physical response, hyperacusis tends to be more consistent between patients than misophonia. Patients typically experience the condition with all sounds or with either low- or high-frequency noises. The symptoms can manifest as pressure, pain, or loud ringing. Nonetheless, it is a physically uncomfortable experience that is worsened by the volume of the sound.

Hyperacusis is linked with physical trauma to the ear or long-term noise exposure. Although these two forms of sensitive hearing are quite different in their causes and mechanisms, they can both cause distress and discomfort. Neither should be thought of as the more “real” condition or more severe problem. In both cases, each patient’s individual experience may vary.

How Can You Tell Which One You Have?

If this is your first time learning that there are several forms of sensitive hearing, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. A lot of people struggle with auditory sensitivity without even thinking about learning more or seek treatment.

The first step in dealing with misophonia or hyperacusis is determining which condition you are experiencing. Keep in mind that there are some other auditory sensitivity conditions, such as phonophobia. Regardless of which condition you have, it can be hard to self-diagnose. The most significant giveaway is whether you experience discomfort with many sounds or only one or a few. However, as a patient, it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between discomfort from an emotional response and a physical reaction.

The best thing you can do is visit an audiologist for an evaluation. They will be able to evaluate your ear and symptoms to determine the likely cause of the issue. If you are experiencing misophonia, the audiologist may recommend further evaluation from a therapist. You may need to visit your primary care physician before seeing any specialists, depending on your insurance situation.

Can They Be Treated?

The good news is that both misophonia and hyperacusis can be treated. The degree of efficacy and the treatment strategies vary between patients. However, you can take comfort knowing that there is some potential relief for sensitive hearing.

Misophonia

Hearing aids can be used to treat the side effects of this condition. Many devices can be trained to detect and block trigger sounds that would cause misophonia episodes. Some can even cover the noises with more pleasant ones such as natural, running water. While this is effective in the short term, it is not typically recommended as a long-term strategy for this condition.

Instead, the most effective treatment for misophonia tends to be therapy. Re-training therapy can change how you emotionally react to certain triggers; in this case, noises. Strategies for therapy can include initially covering the sound with a more pleasant one, then gradually reducing the cover to directly address the trigger sound.

Any misophonia treatment’s ultimate goal is to remove or change the negative associations with the trigger sounds. This should result in them no longer causing a significant emotional response. It probably comes as no surprise that this can take time and hard work. Some patients may require more in-depth treatment to resolve the condition. In some cases, it may not be possible to achieve a complete cure; however, treatment typically yields positive results.

Hyperacusis

Hyperacusis can also be treated using hearing aids. These can reduce the triggers that cause painful reactions. Additionally, they can be used to stimulate certain parts of the auditory system, potentially changing the physiological response to trigger noises.

However, the prognosis of hyperacusis is often less promising than misophonia. Since it is often the result of physical damage to the ear, it may not be curable. A lot of ear trauma is permanent, especially if it has been allowed to progress.

Using hearing aids can substantially help with the symptoms of hyperacusis. So, it is worthwhile to seek treatment for most people suffering from this condition even if a full cure is not possible. Furthermore, in some cases, it may be possible to directly treat or even correct the physical component of the condition.

Memorial Hearing Is Here To Help

Getting started with treating sensitive hearing means getting an evaluation of your hearing from a trained professional. Memorial Hearing in Houston, Texas, can help with this process. We provide hearing tests for a variety of conditions. If necessary, a specialist can examine your ears to better diagnose the problem and its causes.

Additionally, we provide hearing aid fitting and evaluation. We can help you to find the right hearing aids for your unique situation. You can also receive adjustments to ensure that you have the best possible experience with your hearing devices.

Our team has extensive experience providing tinnitus therapy and is now expanding our services to also help with sensitive hearing. These are very similar therapeutic interventions and can greatly help with both misophonia and hyperacusis.

Get Help Dealing With Your Sensitive Hearing

Are you ready to start tackling your sensitive hearing head-on? Memorial Hearing is here to help. Learn more about our hearing services and products. You don’t have to keep struggling with discomfort from the sounds around you in everyday life. Contact us to schedule an appointment and take your first step toward relief.

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