Tinnitus is characterized by a ringing, buzzing, clicking or roaring sound in the ears that cannot be heard from the outside. Affecting more than 50 million people in the United States, tinnitus can be infrequent and relatively nonbothersome or persistent and bothersome. Bothersome tinnitus is likely to cause stress, irritability and sleeplessness.
Hyperacusis is characterized by a heightened sensitivity to sounds in the environment that others tolerate or even ignore. Although there is still a lot we don’t know about the condition, researchers estimate that 3.3% to 17.1% of children and 8% to 15.2% of adults experience hyperacusis.
While tinnitus and hyperacusis may at first glance appear to be opposites, one causing an annoyance at internal ringing, the other at external noise, research suggests that the two may be linked.
Why Do Hyperacusis and Tinnitus Cooccur?
A 2020 study on the connection between the two conditions found that nearly half of tinnitus patients report some degree of hyperacusis, and nearly all hyperacusis patients have tinnitus. One hypothesis to explain the cooccurrence has to do with hearing loss.
Both hyperacusis and tinnitus are common in hearing loss patients. Hearing loss causes a deprivation in the central auditory system. Due to a lack of external input, the central auditory system overreacts by creating the noises associated with hyperacusis and tinnitus.
What Are Your Symptoms Management Options?
Both hyperacusis and tinnitus can cause adverse physical and emotional side effects in a person. While there is no known cure for either condition, several symptom management techniques may help reduce the negative impact.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on changing the adverse reactions to the sounds of hyperacusis and tinnitus. While you may still hear the noises, effective CBT will give you the tools to take control of your reaction to them.
A bout of hyperacusis can turn a fun trip to Caffe Bene into a frustrating and exhausting experience. When this is the case, hearing protection options like earmuffs, earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones can help block out excessive noise and allow you to enjoy your latte in peace.
Hearing aids are a great option to manage the internal ringing of tinnitus. By playing white noise or amplifying external sounds, hearing aids can effectively mask the internal ringing of tinnitus.
In addition to helping minimize the effects of tinnitus, hearing aids can provide the necessary stimulation to prevent auditory deprivation. In theory, a stimulated auditory center will be less likely to create the adverse sounds of hyperacusis.
Contact Speech & Hearing Associates today to make an appointment with one of our specialists about your hearing needs.