Noise sensitivity (hyperacusis)
Hyperacusis is when everyday sounds seem much louder to you than they should. Treatment can help. See a GP if you think you have hyperacusis.
Check if you have hyperacusis
You may have hyperacusis if some everyday sounds seem much louder than they should. It can sometimes be painful.
You may be affected by sounds like:
- jingling coins
- a barking dog
- a car engine
- someone chewing
- a vacuum cleaner
Your sensitivity to noise can affect relationships, school or work and your general wellbeing.
Hyperacusis can affect 1 or both ears. It can come on suddenly or develop over time.
Other types of hearing sensitivity include:
- some sounds making you angry (misophonia)
- some sounds making you anxious (phonophobia)
- your ears having trouble adjusting between quiet and loud sounds (recruitment)
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- everyday noises feel too loud or painful
Your GP may refer you to a hearing specialist for further tests and treatment.
Treatment for hyperacusis
If hyperacusis is caused by another condition, such as migraines or Lyme disease, treating the condition may stop your hyperacusis.
If there's no clear cause, you may be offered treatment to help make you less sensitive to everyday sounds.
This could be:
- sound therapy to get you used to everyday sounds again, and may involve wearing ear pieces that make white noise
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to change the way you think about your hyperacusis and reduce anxiety
Things you can try to ease hyperacusis
try some relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises
do not use earplugs or muffs unless you really need to
do not avoid noisy situations, as this will make you become even more sensitive to noise
Causes of hyperacusis
The cause of hyperacusis is unclear.
It can appear on its own or after hearing a sudden loud noise, such as fireworks.
It can also appear alongside other conditions, like:
- a head injury
- Ménière's disease
- Bell's palsy
- Lyme disease
- Williams syndrome
Children are often more sensitive to loud noises than adults. It often gets better as they get older.
But some children may become more sensitive to noise than others after having an ear infection, for example, or if they have another condition, such as autism.
Find out more
Page last reviewed: 10 November 2022
Next review due: 10 November 2025