Misophonia and hyperacusis are auditory conditions that create emotional and physical discomfort. However, they have different causes and side effects.
What Is Misophonia?
Misophonia is a condition in which a person has a seemingly extreme emotional reaction to certain trigger sounds. It’s believed misophonia manifests around age 12. Trigger sounds can include but aren’t limited to, breathing, chewing, or a clicking pen. When an individual hears a trigger sound, it creates a fight or flight instinct that causes anger, anxiety, disgust, or an urge to escape from the source.
What Causes Misophonia?
It’s believed misophonia develops during childhood or adolescence and can often accompany emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. The exact science behind the brain’s response to trigger sounds isn’t clear. A study found trigger sounds activated the anterior insular cortex (AIC) of the brain when introduced to people with misophonia. The AIC, in turn, stimulated activity in parts of the brain responsible for long-term memory and emotional responses.
How To Treat Misophonia
Treatment includes retraining and cognitive-behavioral therapies to help individuals cope with trigger noises. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also helps ease the negative emotions a person associates with their trigger noise. Some treatments also use white noise as a distraction from negative stimuli.
What Is Hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is a condition that causes sufferers an increased sensitivity to normal volume levels and physically painful responses to sounds. These sounds, like running water or a car engine, may seem normal to other people but have a profound effect on those with hyperacusis. It only affects one in 50,000 people. Symptoms range from mild to severe discomfort and can include:
- Head or ear pain
- Loss of balance
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
What Causes Hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis causes your brain to exaggerate the vibrations received by your ears, creating discomfort. Numerous health conditions and diseases can cause hyperacusis, including:
- Head trauma or injury
- Viral infections
- Ototoxic medication
- Short- or long-term exposure to loud noises
- Lyme disease
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular joint syndrome
How To Treat Hyperacusis
You’ll have to visit an audiologist or hearing specialist to receive hearing tests. Your doctor will require your medical history to determine the cause of your hyperacusis. Treatment depends on the cause and sometimes requires surgery or cochlear implants that can partially or completely relieve symptoms.
Sound therapy, combined with hearing aids, is a more common form of treatment. This therapy uses narrow bands of sound, white noise, and other tones to mask triggers. The sounds are customized to a specific pitch to offset the effects of hyperacusis.