What is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is a very common problem but not always easily understood. It is when certain sounds that most children can tolerate become extremely uncomfortable for others. It can vary a lot from child to child. Some children feel discomfort where others may become anxious or fearful of certain noises.

What are the symptoms of Hyperacusis?

Children cannot always explain why they are unable to tolerate certain noises so they may use body language or emotional gestures like crying, screaming, hitting or biting. They may cover their ears or try to get away from the noise. They may feel angry, tense, distressed or anxious.

Children will often try and avoid situations where loud noises may be present. This can cause them to become isolated and in older children school life can suffer as it is difficult to concentrate. Although your child may experience acute discomfort with the noises, they won't be damaging their hearing.

How can I help my child manage with Hyperacusis?

  • try to explain the source of the sound to the child
  • if possible, move the child away from the sound that they find distressing
  • sometimes it helps if the child has some control over the source of the sound. For example, let them switch the vacuum cleaner on and off
  • watch and listen to videos of the noise that they find distressing, giving the child the ability to control the volume
  • play gentle sounds in the child's environment, out of tune radios (white noise) or recordings of nature sounds (many of these sounds can be found on you tube). Many children have been helped with gentle environment sounds, such as fans, fountains or music
  • continue to gently expose your child to the sounds they find distressing, but always allow your child a way out or position near an exit
  • reward the child every time they are able to tolerate the sound and encourage them to extend this time
  • agree on a signal that your child can use when he/she is with carers or school that says: “this is too much—can we leave now”. The use of ear defenders is not recommended as this causes the sensitivity to increase

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