It’s like something from a horror movie or an episode of The Twilight Zone. Some unknown hand has turned up the volume on the world. Everything is just too loud and there’s no way to make it stop.
Unfortunately, this is actually not fantasy for the small minority of people who suffer from hyperacusis. This is a condition that, well, makes everything too loud.
It’s not really understood why it develops, only that very many other issues can spark it. It can come on gradually or suddenly and has been associated with, among other things, exposure to excessive noise, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Lyme disease, viral infections of the head, migraines, brain injuries, and a host of other conditions.
For some reason, a variety of things can cause failures with the parts of the ear that react protectively to loud sounds, along with issues with the auditory nerve and central auditory portion of the brain.
The result is something that can make everyday life a marathon of unpleasantness and frayed nerves. It can be accompanied by pain, nausea, dizziness, and a loss of balance in an environment with excessive noise. Not any fun at all.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure. The best treatment option is sound therapy, which uses a noise generator to buffer the sound environment and train the auditory processing center to relearn its function. This usually takes six months to a year and is done under the supervision of a professional, trained audiologist.
So, for people suffering from hyperacusis, there is hope.