Sound Sensitivity

What Is Sound Sensitivity

There are four types of sound sensitivity: Hyperacusis, Recruitment, Hyperacute Hearing, and Misophonia.

Hyperacusis is a type of sound sensitivity that either can occur gradually or acutely when a sudden event occus. What happens is the patient’s tolerance to sound has collapsed. People with a collapsed tolerance to sound have a low Loudness Discomfort Level (LDL’s). Normal LDL’s are in the 85-90+ decibel range. Those with Hyperacusis will have levels lower than that. The Neuromonics Tinnitus Retraining Device can also be used to treat Hyperacusis. Insurance may cover part of this treatment.

Many more individuals have Recruitment. Recruitment is the growth of loudness for sounds in the frequency range of a person who has hearing loss. When the decibel level in this frequency range increases quickly, it causes discomfort. Recruitment is more common in cultures that have a lot of background noise. The treatment for Recruitment is the same as for Hyperacusis, unless the hearing loss is so severe that listening to the broadband pink noise would not be useful to them. The Neuromonics Tinnitus Retraining Device can also be used to treat Recruitment. Insurance may cover part of this treatment.

Hyperacute hearing occurs when individuals are sensitive to certain frequencies from birth. Many individuals with behaviors that place them on the autism spectrum have hyperacute hearing, so while they are able to tolerate most frequencies, some frequencies at high levels of loudness cause them physical discomfort. The therapy used to treat Hyperacute hearing is called Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT). Once the problem frequencies are identified, AIT can normalize patient’s hearing tolerances, and re-adjust their ears (and brain) to be able to accept the previously problem frequencies up to 90 decibels.

Misophonia (also sometimes referred to as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome) has often been mistaken as Hyperacusis because it is a dislike of sound. However, it is not the dislike of frequencies, but the dislike of an actual set of sounds such as chewing, coughing, knuckle popping, etc. There is no “loudness” component to Misophonia. Therefore, Misophonia is not considered an issue with an auditory component or solution but a disorder with an autonomic or limbic basis.

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