When the few people who even know what hyperacusis with pain is, they still usually only think of the classical symptoms of noise induced ear pain. Although many people with pain hyperacusis do experience ear pain from sound, not all of them do, and some of the ones that do also experience additional symptoms. These symptoms can range from tinnitus, noise induced migraines/facial pain, vertigo, seizures, confusion, inability to understand speech when other noises are present, and a sensory impairment involving another sense. I personally experience the majority of my pain from sound on my forehead and temples, although I do get ear pain as well. I have random seizures, but also ones triggered by noise. In addition I have sensory processing disorder (sensitive to clothing, shoes, etc), am visually impaired, and cannot understand what someone is saying and get confused when there are multiple people talking or background noise.
As someone who is a part of several support groups for people with pain hyperacusis, and has virtually met many other people with hyperacusis through my online advocacy, I have seen debilitating and overlooked these hyperacusis symptoms by the medical community. Using my own personal experience, and what other suffers have reported, I have attempted to summarize some of the more overlooked symptoms of hyperacusis.
This is the most common associated condition with hyperacusis, and the only one that the medical community accepts a possible relationship with hyperacusis. Thankfully, I personally do not suffer from tinnitus, but I know many in the hyperacusis community who do. From what people have told me about there experiences with it, tinnitus is a constant ringing in the ears. Often a person with hyperacusis will experience a worsening of there tinnitus as when exposed to noise above there tolerance level. A person can have several different tinnitus tones and sounds at the same time. Just like hyperacusis, tinnitus can range from mild to debilitating, with some people even having very sharp tinnitus.
Noise induced Migraines/facial pain:
As I mentioned earlier I personally experience pain on my temples, forehead, and the sides of my head from noise, and get migraines from noise. From what I have read in different hyperacusis groups, and from my virtual encounters with those with pain hyperacusis, migraines or other facial pain triggered by noise is actually quite common. The noise doesn’t have to be loud to trigger a migraines, in fact it can be something that other people barely even hear like a refrigerator humming or a fork hitting a plate. Just as with ear pain, the migraines or facial pain will often last long after the noise. I have some level of a migraine (pain on my temples, forehead, and sides of my head) everyday, either immediately triggered or lingering from noises above my sound tolerance threshold that I am exposed to, even if for only a few minutes of seconds each day.
Noise induced Seizures/other neurological symptoms:
In some patients with hyperacusis they experience seizures when exposed to either noises above their threshold or very loud noises. Thankfully I do not experience a seizure every time I am in pain from noise, however expose to either extreme or prolonged noise does cause me to have a seizure. Often when people think of seizures they think of a person laying on the ground convulsing, although I’m sure there are people with hyperacusis who this happens to, from reading people describe their symptoms it seems more common for people to have absent, myoclonic, or focal seizures. In an absent seizures, a person simply loses consciousness for about 2-10 sec, but there is no body movement. Myoclonic seizures are when a person’s arms jerk or shake uncontrollably, often appearing like they have been startled. There are several types of focal seizures, focal aware seizures, and focal impaired awareness. The symptoms from a focal seizure are quite diverse, and may explain some other strange symptoms people with hyperacusis experience from sound exposure. Symptoms of focal seizures include but are not limited to: muscle contractions, followed by relaxation contractions on just one side of your body unusual head or eye movements numbness, tingling, or a feeling that something is crawling on your skin abdominal pain rapid heart rate or pulse automatisms (repetitive movements), such as picking at clothes or skin, staring, lip smacking, and chewing or swallowing sweating nausea flushed face dilated pupils, vision changes, or hallucinations mood changes blackouts. In addition to noise induced seizures some patients with hyperacusis may experience pain throughout their entire body, or in different body parts. I even know people who experience temporary paralysis from prolonged periods of sound exposure.
Noise Induced vertigo/dizziness:
For some people exposure to noise above their tolerance threshold or specific frequencies can cause them to become dizzy and even lose their balance. People can experience this along with pain or other symptoms. When a person mainly experiences noise induced dizzy/vertigo this and maybe noise induced seizures, this is called vestibular hyperacusis. Just as with noise induced pain or other symptoms, vestibular hyperacusis can range from mild to severe. Some people only feel dizzy or like they are spinning from louder noises, for others even quiet sounds can cause them to completely lose their balance and fall over.
Other Sensory Impairment
Sensory impairments are any impairment that affects the senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste. Examples of sensory impairments include but are not limited to: vision loss/blindness, visual snow, photo-sensitivity, hearing loss, auditory processing disorder, allodynia, multiple chemical sensitivity, sensory processing disorder, autism, etc. By definition hyperacusis would definitely be considered a sensory impairment. From reading about other people’s hyperacusis experiences and symptoms, it seems quite a few people who have hyperacusis also have an additional sensory impairment. Reporting difficulty understanding speech, which is one of the main symptoms of auditory processing disorder, is a common complaint from those I know virtually with hyperacusis. Hearing loss is also sometimes associated with hyperacusis, in such cases it is sometimes called recruitment by the medical community. Some people with hyperacusis also report visual snow, light/color sensitivity, visually processing difficulty, or even vision loss. In some hyperacusis patients they may also have sensory processing disorder, sensitivity or even pain from a broad variety of sensory stimuli such as clothing, shoes, or different textures. Severe tactile sensitivity with pain is called allodynia. In addition some people with hyperacusis experience pain or illness when exposed to everyday smells, which is called multiple chemical sensitivity. Finally some people with pain hyperacusis are on the autism spectrum, or may have a combination of more than three of the above listed sensory impairments. As I mentioned earlier, I am personally legally blind, and have sensory processing disorder in addition to my hyperacusis.
Hyperacusis Research has currently found two possible sources for pain hyperacusis, type II nerve cells in the cochlear, and the middle ear, which triggers the trigeminal nerve and would explain the migraines and facial pain some patients experience. After speaking with research scientist Paul Fuchs, and Fan-gang Zheng, I think that there are at least three types of pain/physical symptoms, hyperacusis. The above two types currently listed, and a type of hyperacusis involving the brain centers, which is one of research Fan-gang Zeng’s theory behind hyperacusis. As he told me, “once the auditory signal is in the brain, it can literally go to any of the other brain centers from there.” If this is one patient cause of hyperacusis, it could potentially explain symptoms like seizures, tinnitus, vertigo, and additional sensory impairments. More research needs to be done to better understand these lesser known symptoms of hyperacusis. Who knows maybe some forms of hyperacusis is actually some sort of complex neurological disorder.
About the Creator
I’m a 17 year old writer & advocate for my rare disease, hyperacusis. I love writing poetry, non fiction articles, & short stories on a variety of topics: mermaids, fantasy, emotions experienced throughout human life, sci-fi, fantasy, ect.