Reduced Sound Tolerance is an atypical experience of discomfort to sound exposure. The severity of this reduction in acceptance of sounds that would otherwise be agreeable to those with normal tolerance levels can range from annoyance to severe disability. Some patients may even alter or stop daily activities due to the great sound discomfort experienced.
There are three main types of intolerance: hyperacusis, misophonia /phonophobia, and recruitment. Hyperacusis is discomfort to normal or loud sounds, and occurs in those with normal hearing sensitivity. Misophonia/Phonophobia is discomfort to specific sounds, even at a soft or normal volume.
Misophonia characterizes those with a great dislike for sound, while phonophobia describes those who fear the sound. Recruitment is an unusual discomfort to loud sounds due to a reduced dynamic range of hearing in those with hearing loss.
Discomfort in these patients is not imaginary! This intolerance is due to changes in the auditory system or in the central auditory processing centers in the brain. Therapies may be necessary to alter the way the brain processes incoming signals. The brain must be “retrained” to tolerance.
Treatment options may include: amplification (in those with hearing loss), silence avoidance by creating an auditory rich environment, wearable sound generators, and retraining therapies typically used for those suffering from tinnitus. Many patients suffering from intolerance to sound also experience sound inside their ears, also known as tinnitus. Ask your hearing healthcare provider about your options for your specific needs. Start improving your sound tolerance today!