There is a range of hearing sensitivities which people experience, often with symptoms which sound very similar to each other but have distinct differences. For some people, these sensitivities can be very mild and experienced without too much notice or discomfort. For others, these hearing sensitivities can cause daily discomfort and drastically impact their quality of life.
Misophonia is a selective sound sensitivity, consisting of a strong emotional and physical response to certain sounds. It can leave people feeling angry, frustrated and disgusted.
Hearing a sound —> feeling strong emotion + a physical response (fight or flight system)
Nails on a blackboard or a knife slipping across a plate are common examples. These sorts of sounds can make the listener angry, and the trigger will differ from person to person. For some, the sound of a polystyrene cup will send shivers down their spine; for others, it may be the sound of someone sniffing. What the noises tend to have in common is that they are created by a human and are usually under voluntary control.
Many people will recognise the description of this hearing sensitivity but won’t realise is that there is a name for it, misophonia, and for some people, it can cause extreme daily discomfort.
When everyday sounds seem much louder than they should and are painful or uncomfortable to the listener, this experience is called Hyperacusis. These could be any sounds such as a barking dog, jingling keys, a vacuum cleaner, somebody chewing food nearby or perhaps a vehicle engine.
Hyperacusis can be experienced in one or both ears and can come on suddenly or develop over time. Severe hyperacusis can be extremely frustrating, painful and stressful for sufferers and can result in people avoiding some social or professional occasions, which can exacerbate the condition if the sufferer becomes withdrawn and isolated. Professional support from an Audiologist is recommended for hyperacusis sufferers, which may involve a combination of medical treatment, sound therapy and stress/anxiety management.Speak with a Cubex Audiologist
Phonophobia is a fear of loud noises, and while it is related to hearing, it is an anxiety disorder and not a hearing condition. Also known as Ligyrophobia, Phonophobia is a condition whereby sudden or unexpected loud noises can trigger anxiety attacks, such as balloons bursting or alarms sounding.
Someone with phonophobia would find it extremely distressing to watch a balloon being blown up beyond its capacity, fearful of the sudden loud noise which is sure to follow. Likewise, someone with this condition would find it very distressing being in a building while fire alarm tests are being conducted.
Tinnitus is hearing condition often described as sounding like a ringing, humming, buzzing or whirring in the ear, experienced when there is no external sound. The sound may be constant, or it may come and go, it may be very quiet or it can be very loud and intrusive. Tinnitus is commonly brought on by damage to the ears caused by loud music or loud environments, although the true cause of the condition is not very well understood.
Tinnitus is not an illness; it is a symptom generated by the central auditory system and is usually caused by another underlying condition. There is no known cure for tinnitus, but there are many clinical tools and lifestyle strategies available to help sufferers to manage the distressing symptoms of tinnitus.
Hearing sensitivity treatments
While these are not all hearing conditions per se, they do impact on cognitive hearing health and wellbeing, in general. The one thing these hearing sensitivities all have in common is the way they in which they are treated. Whether the sensitivity is a psychological or physical issue, it makes no difference to the levels of stress, it can cause a person.
The reduction or management of stress and anxiety is the first step towards treating these conditions and improving the mental wellbeing of the person. Phonophobia, in particular, can only be managed by treating the anxiety disorder because the audiological element of the problem is the trigger, not the cause.
It is becoming increasingly common practice to adopt mindfulness and meditative practices as a form of stress and anxiety management. At Cubex, we often recommend mindfulness as a useful treatment for tinnitus and other hearing sensitivities because we know that enabling an individual with the tools to effectively improve cognitive clarity and reduce stress in the body and the mind is central to any successful treatment plan. We encourage the integration of lifestyle strategies and mindfulness and meditation techniques in our management plans.
One of our key management programmes called CALM utilizes clinical and lifestyle based techniques to achieve optimum cognitive hearing health through a 4 pillared approach.
Cognitive Assessment & Training
Lifestyle Strategies Techniques
Mindfulness & Meditation
The programme was designed by Audiological Scientists to support the mental, emotional and cognitive wellbeing of people experiencing issues with hearing health and sensitivities.
The Cubex CALM programme is a mindfulness-based cognitive hearing health programme, which combines clinical audiological support and cognitive training with real-world education, tools and techniques to help those with hearing conditions to live a life that is rich with conversation, connected and calm.
If you are experiencing one of the hearing sensitivities mentioned above and would like to discuss this with a professional, arrange a consultation with a Cubex consultant.Speak with a Cubex Audiologist