sensory distortions: hyperacusis

Upon learning about attention and perception in psychopathology the area of hyperacusis stimulated interest. Numerous definitions have emerged surrounding hyperacusis with the focus being on the heightened awareness of sound (Tyler et al, 2014). Hesitations surround the concept and what causes it with research suggesting it is as a result of hypersensitivity to sounds, thus a lowered threshold of noise, others have suggested that it is a result of an intolerance to loud noises that the individual might have. Nonetheless, whilst the definition varies from author to author, the importance of emotional involvement has been highlighted as those who experience hyperacusis often feel fear, pain and annoyance as a result, highlighting the debilitating nature of the condition.

Research into fear hyperacusis has found that expereincing noises results in adverse response from the individual which can result in an anticipatory response and avoidance behaviour. Consequentially, individuals who expereince hyperacusis often are more at risk of withdrawing from social events, avoiding crowded or busy places and becoming isolated as a result of the fear and anxiety they have around this. This seclusion however is heightened from the same noises that induce fear having the tendency to create further tension and irritation or even induce pain to the individual. The pain expereinced has been acknowledged to range in severity depending on the individual, for example a stabbing pain within the ear

Listening to a baby cry on the train, the rattling of dishes and loud crashes all have the potential to evoke these emotions in people who do not have distorted hearing. Yet those with hyperacusis have this to a much greater extent. Exposure to noise has been found to increase the likelihood of developing this, with recreational music exposure being the most common (Anari et al., 1999). This perpetuates the isolation element of hyperacusis due to music having the ability to not only interpersonally increase confidence, self-esteem and overall psychological well-being but also interpersonally in creating a sense of belonging with others.


Anari, M., Axelsson, A., Eliasson, A., & Magnusson, L. (1999). Hypersensitivity to sound: Questionnaire data, audiometry, and classification. Scandinavian Audiology, 28, 219–230.

Tyler, R. S., Pienkowski, M., Roncancio, E. R., Jun, H. J., Brozoski, T., Dauman, N., ... & Moore, B. C. (2014). A review of hyperacusis and future directions: part I. Definitions and manifestations. American journal of audiology23(4), 402-419.

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