We all have that moment when we crack, and quarantine hasn’t helped us, at all! It is natural to have these moments when we are tired and cranky, and someone in the home is doing something extremely annoying. Like breathing.

But, while occasionally feeling stressed by sound happens to all of us, some people have sounds that disturb their lives all the time.

Some people with tinnitus, hyperacusis or misophonia, experience discomfort that makes normal life impossible.

What is tinnitus? Tinnitus was originally described in the 1800s by Frenchman, Jean Marie Gaspard Itard. It means “to ring”, but it certainly isn’t confined to a ringing sound. It is usually a sound made by some part of the auditory pathway, including areas of the brain, when there is no external sound present. It is described differently by different people, but can feel like humming, buzzing, whooshing, crickets, beetles, and ringing. It can be constant, or it can change. It can feel as if it originates in the ear, or in the middle of the head. It can begin suddenly or arrive slowly. Be loud, or soft.

Most people experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, and if unalarmed by it, it often goes away. For some people, once noticed, it becomes a stressful symptom that can contribute to changes in sleep patterns and affect quality of life.

Tinnitus is rarely a symptom of something harmful, and most often, a sign of hearing loss. It should always be checked by a qualified professional if it persists for more than a day. The causes of tinnitus are highly varied, and diagnosis is valuable to ensure that the cause is not a concern. You should more urgently see an audiologist for an assessment: If tinnitus is new; is present on only one side; is accompanied by dizziness or hearing loss; and if it feels disturbing to you. Contrary to what is believed, management of tinnitus, particularly early in the condition, results in some measure of improvement for more than 70% of people.

What is hyperacusis? Hyperacusis is a rare symptom of extreme sensitivity to sound. It can be caused by physical changes to the bony tissue around the inner ear. However, more often, the word hyperacusis is allocated to an anxiety condition that has attached stress to all sounds. The more one feels sensitive, the more one fears the sounds that create discomfort.

Audiological testing in the case of hyperacusis is not done to determine if a person can hear. Much more importantly, testing needs to carefully assess comfort at medium and loud levels, creating a map for sounds that are distressing. Good management with an experienced audiologist can often help a person to completely overcome the symptom. It is very important at an early stage because people with hyperacusis tend to manage their problem by blocking out sound, which has the opposite effect to what is required to solve it.

What is misphonia?Misophonia is a stressful reaction to certain sounds, usually caused by anxiety or stress at an early age, seldom remembered by the patient. The strong association creates a reinforcing cycle, and sometimes other sounds are added and additional reactions are built over time. The common triggers are eating, sniffing, or clipping noises., but the type of sound is personal. People become very upset because they cannot control the source of the sound. Like hyperacusis, early testing and intervention can change the world for patients with misophonia, leading to a much more normal life.

Some of the audiologists at NB Hearing have attended specific additional education to work with patients who have these conditions. More than that, some of us have worked with many patients who have experienced one or more of these.

We can support you, and you can live a more comfortable life. Contact us for help.

By Natalie Buttress

Sometimes Sound Annoys Me