Hyperacusis is a condition that causes extreme sensitivity to sound. Individuals with this condition may hear certain sounds like they're unbearably amplified, even if others don't appear to notice them. Things like running faucets, dishwashers, refrigerators, car engines, and loud conversations can all become unbearable. For some patients, the sounds are just a mild irritant. However, others have serious physical reactions like loss of balance and seizures. While hyperacusis only affects one in fifty thousand individuals, there are some conditions and circumstances that can increase an individual's chance of developing it. Most patients aren't born with hyperacusis. Instead, it's caused by a different health issue or disease.
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Meniere's disease is an inner ear disorder that can cause hearing loss and dizzy spells. Most commonly, only one ear is affected, but there have been cases where symptoms appear in both ears. While Meniere's disease is a chronic condition, there are treatments to relieve symptoms. Typically, Meniere's disease appears in individuals ranging from young adults to middle-aged adults. The symptoms involve recurring episodes of vertigo, which make a patient feel like they're spinning. Episodes can last anywhere from twenty minutes to twenty-four hours, and they can cause nausea in severe cases. Patients also typically have some hearing loss, which tends to come and go at first and then progress to permanence. They might also experience tinnitus or a feeling of pressure in their ear. Researchers don't yet know why Meniere's disease develops. The symptoms seem to be caused by an excess of inner ear fluid, but the cause of this hasn't yet been pinpointed.
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After individuals experience a traumatic brain injury, it's relatively common to develop hyperacusis. The head trauma doesn't need to have been severe. In fact, the mildest and most common type of traumatic brain injury is a concussion. Patients recovering from concussions and more serious injuries might notice environmental sounds are extremely loud and impossible to filter. Many individuals have so much trouble with outside noises that they stay indoors. Any noise is liable to trigger hyperacusis symptoms, but normally-unnoticed noises like electrical humming are particularly susceptible to sensitivity. Hyperacusis patients can talk to audiologists about treatment options. Often, those with traumatic brain injuries can benefit from customized earplugs that dampen noise. Though these earplugs were first designed to protect musicians during loud concerts, they've been adapted for individuals with traumatic brain injuries.
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