Hyperacusis is a hearing condition which results in the sounds of everyday life becoming uncomfortably loud and often painful. The condition is surprisingly common, affecting around 2% of the general adult population. For many people hyperacusis is a minor annoyance that they learn to live with, but for some the condition affects them so greatly that they become isolated, largely withdrawing from interpersonal contact.
In some sufferers, their sensitivity is limited to a particular sound or sounds and in those cases the terms phonophobia or misophonia may be applied.
CRPS, Dystonia and Hyperacusis
Research has shown that people suffering CRPS related dystonia are substantially more likely to suffer hyperacusis than the general adult population. One study put the number at more than one in three.
Dystonia is a movement disorder which causes uncontrollable contractions of the muscles in one or more parts of the body. This results in the painful twisting and distortion of those parts of the body affected. Dystonia is the most common movement disorder suffered by people with CRPS and is often a sign that they have reached stage 3 of the condition.
In one study, of 185 CRPS patients studied, 121 of them were found to be suffering a movement disorder and of those, 91% were diagnosed with dystonia.
Evidence of spread
It is thought that the prevalence of hyperacusis among people with CRPS related dystonia may reflect the spreading of central sensitisation to the auditory circuitry connecting the ear to the brain; further evidence of how CRPS can gradually invade the body.
Treatment for hyperacusis
There is no ‘cure’ as such for hyperacusis. However, people suffering with the condition are often referred for sound therapy with an audiologist or ENT specialist and/or cognitive behavioural therapy with a psychologist. Both are often effective at helping people to adapt to life with the condition.