sound, sensitivity to sound, sound sensitivity


Hyperacusis, also known as hypersensitivity to sound, that can be caused by head injuries, ear infections, or exposures to loud noises. However, it is a common symptom of an individual who experienced brain injuries, from someone who suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) to a sports-related concussion. Hyperacusis is different from other noise disorders that may arise such as phonophobia (fear of sounds), misophonia (dislike of sound), or tinnitus (ringing in in the ears). It can be a highly debilitating feature of a brain injury that makes it difficult to participate in certain social situations and environments due to being unable to tolerate everyday sounds such as hearing a phone ring, a baby crying, the sound of high heels, or dishes being put away. 

The reaction of having a hypersensitive to noises in the environment can lead to what may look like an exaggerated or inappropriate response to an unthreatening situation. It is one of the “invisible” symptoms that may make it difficult for a typical person to understand due to not being able to physically see the disorder and various symptoms that manifest with a brain injury. Living with hyperacusis can deprive the individual of engaging in everyday meaningful activities, fulfill important roles in their lives, and overall impact their mental health. 

Hyperacusis can impact the following: 

  • Your mood (feeling anxious, depressed, irritated, or stressed) 
  • Normal activities such as watching TV with your family 
  • Activities at home such as cleaning or cooking (e.g., vacuuming or using blender) 
  • Your relationship with your family or friends 
  • Feeling irritated phone or text message sounds, music, speech volume, etc. 
  • Fulfilling your responsibilities at work due to uncontrollable sounds in the environment 

Below are examples of the type of hyperacusis, the symptoms, and strategies that are helpful. 

Hyperacusis Type & Symptoms  Helpful Strategies or Treatments  

*Treatments will vary 

Cochlear hyperacusis 

  • Symptoms: Ear pain, frustration, and intolerance to sounds 


  • Hearing protection such as wearing earplugs or earmuffs in loud places for short relief
    • Not always recommended, for normal sounds. May make individual more sensitive to sounds by avoiding sounds (consult your audiologist) 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): a type of therapy to help modify your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to the problem, for psychological distress 
  • Sound therapy to help retrain brain and habituate individual to everyday sounds starting from a low level and progressing to higher levels of sounds 
  • Counseling (in conjunction with other therapies listed) to address fears and anxiety 
  • Relaxation therapy: helps relieve stress through specific techniques 
  • Remember that the loud sounds you are hearing are not damaging your hearing 
  • Remind and reassure your loved ones if diagnosed with hyperacusis 
  • Gradually and safely increase your exposure to “loud sounds” in the environment, preferably predictable environments. 
  • Engage in relaxation techniques and coping strategies for the psychological component of this disorder 
Vestibular hyperacusis 

  • Symptoms: Nausea, dizzy, and feeling as if you are moving or going to lose your balance 



Baguley D. M. (2003). Hyperacusis. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine96(12), 582–585. 

Sound Relief Hearing Center. (n.d.) HYPERACUSIS. Sound Relief Hearing Center. 

For more TBI Glossary Terms, click here.

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