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Those with hyperacusis find themselves hypersensitive in varying degree to everyday sounds. These sounds may include running water, traffic noises, the wind in the trees, or other typically encountered environmental sounds. These are often sounds that others would not find uncomfortably loud.
Those with hyperacusis may have normal hearing, or may have hearing loss. The problem is with the central auditory processing system. The brain is abnormally magnifying the perception of sound, and so sounds that are of a mild or moderate nature are perceived as being uncomfortably loud. High frequency sounds are often among the most bothersome. The individual with hyperacusis generally has a reduced dynamic range for hearing. The dynamic range refers to the range of sounds from barely audible to uncomfortably loud. Things get too loud too fast.
There are other aspects of hyperacusis. Phonophobia (fear of sound) may be present as well as Misophonia (dislike of sound). With Phonophobia there is a general 'fear' of sound. Those with Phonophobia may believe that exposure to some sounds may be harmful. They may overuse earplugs in an effort to protect themselves from exposure to this perceived threat. This can make the person more hypersensitive. With Misophonia, it is specific sounds that are most bothersome. Here, the abnormally strong reaction to certain sounds involves the part of the brain (the Limbic system and Autonomic Nervous System) that controls emotional reactions. Some children and adults with Misophonia may react negatively to specific sounds. They often involve 'body noises'. Sounds such as chewing, sniffling, lip smacking, throat clearing or other repetitive sounds such as finger tapping, keyboarding may provoke anger and rage when the person is confronted with these trigger sounds.
There are treatments available, but accurate diagnosis of the primary condition is important.