What is Hyperacusis?

Abnormal sensitivity to everyday sound levels or noises, often sensitivity to higher pitched sounds, in the presence of essentially normal hearing.  Hyperacusis is primarily an issue of LOUDNESS, not content!  Another good term for hyperacusis is Decreased Sound Tolerance (DST).  Voices, crowds, music, and noises can be too loud for those with this condition.  Sometimes hyperacusis includes pain in the ears upon hearing these noises.

What causes this?

The most common cause of hyperacusis is noise trauma.  Exposure to sudden or very loud noises can provoke reduced sound tolerance.  The next most common cause is head injury, like whiplash or blows to the head.  Other causes can include adverse medication reactions, illnesses, hearing loss, or unknown factors. For unknown reasons, some people, when exposed to noise trauma, develop serious ear pain, otalgia, that persists.

How many people have hyperacusis?

What we do know is that about half of those who have tinnitus, have hyperacusis, too.  Then there are people who only have hyperacusis.  This number is hard to estimate!  Probably less than 1 percent of all people in the world. Much smaller is the group with painful noise induced hearing.

What does the clinic offer?

First we will conduct an evaluation for hyperacusis at the initial appointment. If present, the hyperacusis is rated in severity from mild to profound. Dr. Johnson has spent two decades evaluation pediatric and adult patients with hyperacusis, is calm and reassuring, and can answer questions and offer helpful treatment plans.

The Johnson Hyperacusis Quotient is used to rate severity and judge progress.   Testing for the hyperacusis uses the LDL test (loudness discomfort level).  This measures the level of tolerance for slowly increasing tone pips from low pitches to higher pitches.  The results are carefully recorded and each tiny piece of information is used to decide on the condition and the degree.  Patients are asked to differentiate between loudness and pain in the test.  Sounds are never loud enough to cause further injury or damage.

What can be done for hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis can be improved in about 90 percent of all patients.  Using broad band sound therapy in the form of sound generators is the most common approach. Wearing them at comfortable levels for six to twelve months for 6-8 hours per day has shown to be quite effective for most patients. Sound generators are comfortable, nearly invisible, and durable. Sound generators are $1800 for a pair and can be covered by insurance if you have a hearing aid benefit.

What else is needed?

Treatment requires frequent directive educational counseling, regular follow-ups and office visits.  Skype, phone, email and texting help the patient keep in close touch with the clinic.  Please forward any auditory records to the clinic prior to your visit.

 How can I make an appointment?

Please call (503) 234-1221 to schedule your hyperacusis appointment.  We often have a wait list so please schedule as early as possible.