Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two or more conditions in a person. While comorbidity does not always mean causation, the two conditions often share similar causes or traits that make them likely to cooccur.
The simultaneous presence of tinnitus and hyperacusis is one example of a comorbidity.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is characterized by a ringing, buzzing, clicking or roaring noise in the ears that cannot be heard from the outside. Affecting more than 50 million people in the United States, tinnitus ranges in frequency and severity. Frequent and severe tinnitus may cause irritability, sleeplessness, fatigue, stress, memory problems, depression, anxiety, headaches and more.
What Is Hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis, or decreased sound tolerance, is a rare hearing disorder wherein a person perceives a sound as uncomfortably or unbearably loud. Whereas people without hyperacusis will tolerate or ignore a sound, people with hyperacusis will feel as if the volume of the noise is turned up too high.
Familiar sounds that may feel unbearable to people with hyperacusis include but are not limited to:
- People talking at a normal level
- Water running
- Dishes clinking
- Appliances running
Hyperacusis can adversely affect your mental health and cause irritation and anxiety.
How Are They Connected?
A study aimed at defining and analyzing the connection between hyperacusis and tinnitus found that while they are complete opposites at first glance, they are clinically intertwined, stating that “Nearly half of tinnitus sufferers report some degree of hyperacusis, while most hyperacusis sufferers have tinnitus.”
One hypothesis given by the study has to do with both condition’s connection to hearing loss. Both hyperacusis and tinnitus are common in those with hearing loss. As a result of a lack of external input, hearing loss can cause the auditory center of the brain to go into a state of deprivation. When the auditory center is deprived, it may overreact by creating the noises associated with hyperacusis and tinnitus.
What Can You Do?
There is currently no known cure for either hyperacusis or tinnitus. Managing your symptoms is the best way to prevent either condition’s adverse effect on your life. A couple of symptom management techniques include:
- Wear hearing aids. Hearing aids are an excellent tinnitus management option. By amplifying external sounds or playing white noise, hearing aids can drown out the internal ringing of tinnitus. Your tinnitus will likely be less noticeable because the brain can’t focus on both noises simultaneously.
- Hearing Protection. When hyperacusis turns a fun fall day at Crestview Park into a frustrating or unbearable situation, hearing protection can help alleviate your symptoms. Earmuffs, earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones can greatly help reduce the impact of hyperacusis noise.
For more information on managing your tinnitus symptoms, contact Topeka Ear Nose & Throat today to make an appointment with one of our specialists.