Ever since I’ve been a little girl, something has been off – not quite right. I was angry, anxious and frustrated constantly, I’d lash out and shout because I was in a state of pain constantly – not because of an injury or even a disability, but because I was suffering with a condition called Hyperacusis.
It took me up until I was seventeen to get diagnosed and it was the first time I’d been taken seriously whenever I spoke about what sound was doing to me and how it was making me feel, it was the first time that when I told someone, “it hurts,” they didn’t think I was being dramatic. I was in therapy because I’d been having a lot of anxiety attacks and I was lashing out a lot at home over the slightest, tiniest noise. My ears were constantly ringing with tinnitus and I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do about it because I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously, I didn’t even know it was a recognised condition until I got a diagnosis.
So, now I bet you’re wandering what exactly hyperacusis is. It’s a condition that affects how you perceive sounds and you will have a heightened sensitivity to sounds which are not usually an issue for anyone else, it’s a condition that commonly gets mistaken for being misophonia because of how similar the symptoms are, but they’re not quite the same. For one, misophonia is not a physical disorder, you don’t experience any pain, but hyperacusis means that I am constantly feeling uncomfortable and completely aware of the sounds around me. Some people will develop hyperacusis due to damage to their hearing or because of a pre-existing medical condition, and others, like myself, will develop it out of the blue, the causes of hyperacusis are definitely up for debate though and there are a lot of forums out there that spread misinformation – I’ve read about people claiming to be cured of their hyperacusis, something I can only feel enviable of, and I’ve only ever read of one person in the media being covered for this condition, his name was Jason DiEmilio, he tragically committed suicide because he couldn’t live with the condition anymore, it destroyed him. But I won’t let it destroy me.
My day-to-day life is very mundane but also throughout the day, every single day, I am constantly experiencing triggers. I work full time for a fasteners company, and as you can probably imagine, there are machines going constantly. I can’t begin to describe how long my days at work feel because of it. At one stage I thought that I’d get over it because I’d read about Pink Noise Therapy, and I assumed that working in such a noisy environment would have the same results, but it doesn’t.
Every day I wear earphones to try and blank out the noise a bit – my earphones aren’t playing any music but the pressure of them being in my ears relieves the tension a little bit. It doesn’t do much but it’s enough to make it feel a bit better, on the off chance I do start to actually play music, I play it low and so that my mind is distracted from the sounds of the machines. This is the worst part of my day to day life, but it’s one that I’ve had to come to accept and live with, because without a job, I have no money.
Once my working day is done and I am home I like to have a couple of minutes isolated. I want to enjoy the silence just for a couple of moments. My ears will be ringing with an almighty roar but it’s finally some peace and quiet. This is my favourite part of the day.
Something that disappoints me a lot is that I haven’t eaten with my family at a dinner table during meal times unless we eat out at a restaurant for years. It’s the sounds of mouths that affect me probably the most, which is why it’s so easy to mistake this for misophonia. The chewing and sounds of the food swapping sides, the way the tongue moves the food around and the crunch and snapping of food completely ruins me. I’ve lashed out more times than I can count and it’s a sound that no matter what, I can not tolerate. So thanks to this I decided to stop eating at the dinner table. Dinner time was becoming too stressful, I was feeling anxious and I would dread meal times. So I eat in an isolated setting, I mostly Skype with my boyfriend and we watch a movie together so it’s not too lonely, but I definitely can’t lie, I miss meal times as a family before I couldn’t take the sounds any longer but these are the sacrifices I’ve made so that I don’t totally go bonkers thanks to it.
I don’t feel so alone in my condition anymore though. The people around me are understanding, my boyfriend tries the hardest out of anyone to not make so much noise and tries his best to be quiet and not get too loud so that he isn’t one of the causes of my pain, I appreciate this a lot and it definitely makes me feel cared for because I spent so many years feeling like nobody understood.
This is only one reason for why I don’t feel so alone though. I recently read an article which expressed that one of the main annoyances that people have, is unwanted noise. It’s why we’re all such a big fan of muting. Why we all walk around with headphones on or earphones plugged in, it’s why Uber recently released a feature so that we can “mute” our drivers and it’s why Libraries are so popular again these days. People are enjoying silence more than ever. Even though it’s for a different reason, I feel like perhaps now if I speak out about how this condition exists and affects me, people may be more willing to empathise and understand.
… I feel like perhaps now if I speak out about how this condition exists and affects me, people may be more willing to empathise and understand.
Hyperacusis will always affect me and my day to day life, but I won’t let it ruin my life.