Some people develop a diminished ability to tolerate loud sounds. This condition is called hyperacusis. The hearing mechanism becomes so sensitive that it works harder than normal at receiving sound.
When sound is received, it seems louder than it would to a person without this condition. Our ears and brains measure the loudness of a particular sound according to how it compares to other sounds in our immediate environment.
What is Hyperacusis?
Could you hear someone whistle softly if you’re in a noisy room or stadium? Could you hear that same whistle if you’re in a hushed library or church? The same level of sound will be interpreted quite differently.
Just Opposite to Tinnitus
People with tinnitus often crave sweet silence. They long for times when they can hear nothing at all. Similarly, individuals with hyperacusis seek silence. This is actually a terrible solution for their problems since silence forces the auditory mechanisms to become super sensitive, literally searching for a sound.
The correct solution for these conditions is to increase safety levels of sound over time, so the auditory mechanisms adapt and adjust, and accept these sounds as normal.
When there is no ambient sound in our environment, we feel fear at a subconscious level. This stems from earlier times when periods of silence often reflected the approach of a predator in the night. We feel safest in the presence of some sound.
How Did Hyperacusis Evolve?
Thousands of years ago, a person alone could not expect to live very long. Man learned to associate with others to have any chance at enduring the harsh elements, wild beasts, or hostile tribes. Groups of humans generate noise as they function, so we became accustomed to having base levels of sound around us at all times while we felt safe.
Because we interpret sound levels by contrasting them with other sounds in the same immediate vicinity, silence makes any sound that’s present seem louder than it otherwise might.
When we wish to drown out unwanted sounds, we often play soft music or use electronic devices to generate artificial nature sounds. So it is recommended to surround yourself with pleasing sounds especially at night a soft music or even a noisy fan will work great.