Why Is the Same External Sound Less Painful When Masked by White Noise?

Discussion in 'Support' started by Jen67, Feb 14, 2020.

    1. Jen67

      Jen67 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/17
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      acoustic trauma
      Hi all,

      I am still trying to understand how hyperacusis works.

      My situation: I had an acoustic trauma in late 2017. For a while I had quite bad tinnitus, especially in my left ear (the Morse code kind).

      My tinnitus has improved a lot. Even when it spikes, it's quiet enough that it doesn't really bother me.

      Pain hyperacusis remains an issue. For me, it works like this: It is triggered not by a loud sound but by tinny sound: prolonged exposure to not very loud at all music from a nearby boombox at someone's house for dinner, most recently. TV or laptop speakers, again not especially loud, can also be a problem.

      Once it is triggered by this kind of event, the ears become more sensitive for awhile and react to other high-pitched sounds that don't normally bother me, like dishes, etc. The only thing that calms this down is protecting my ears for awhile from all tinny sound. Once I am less reactive, I don't have to protect from normal-level tinny sound. But I do have to avoid TV/laptops etc. at too high a volume.

      Here's what I wonder about. When I am in a sensitized phase, the same sound (say, a TV) will be hurting my ears like crazy, and then when I do something like turn the dryer on and it is masked by the dryer noise, it doesn't hurt as much. So clearly, this is not an issue of volume (I am standing right next to the dryer) but the ups and downs and high spikes of the TV sound.

      This correlates with the fact that my hyperacusis also generally improves when I visit big cities, where there is constant ambient noise. It doesn't matter that some of it is loud. I can be in a New York subway station, no problem. Whereas living in my quiet town, going to someone's house for dinner where they are playing low level music on a tinny boombox, that *totally* sets me off.

      So I do think sometimes I *would* benefit from something like white noise generators, or some source of constant sound. Problem is, where I live, there is hardly any decent healthcare. I'm thinking I'll just buy a pink noise machine and try running it more during the day.
       
      • Good Question Good Question x 2
    2. Juan

      Juan Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2014
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Several causes
      That's because your hearing is dimming some frequencies and amplifying some other frequencies that are the ones you notice as painful (this wont happen anymore if you have SNHL in some frequencies). If you have rest time, it will fade by itself and, on the contrary, if you run into loud sound during that stage in which your hearing is more sensitive, it will get worse.
      The problem seems to be the dynamic range, the difference between peak sounds and background sounds.
      That does not sound like hyperacusis... actually I think you have a mild problem of sensitive hearing for certain frequencies (the "tinny sounds"). When those haircells (the ones that interpret the tinny sounds) are hit then you notice discomfort.
       
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    3. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Jen67

      Jen67 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/17
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      acoustic trauma
      Juan, I appreciate you taking the time to reply. It is interesting that you do not think this is hyperacusis. I have certainly read of others on this forum who have particular issues with tinny sound from low quality speakers like laptops or TVs.

      Do you think using pink noise in the background during the day might help? Right now it is hard for me even to be in the same room with the stereo on. I would like to get back to being able to listen to music and TV, without headphones, at normal volume. Actually, last summer it seemed I almost was, but then had some setbacks and have had trouble getting back to that point.
       
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    4. Mister Muso
      Creative

      Mister Muso Member

      Location:
      Scotland
      Tinnitus Since:
      2007 / April 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud music
      I would say it doesn't sound like generalized volume hyperacusis. Pain hyperacusis is much more specific and can be triggered by particular frequencies as you've described.

      I have volume hyperacusis which can also lead to pain if I am exposed to noise for long enough, or to extreme volumes for a short period of time. I don't generally have problem with sounds from my phone or a boom bar.

      If pink noise seems to help, then no harm in trying it for a while at low volume.
       
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    5. Juan

      Juan Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2014
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Several causes
      Yes, I think that may help. Basically you have to get your ears used to sound, but avoid very loud sound.

      There are things you can try:

      - Playing pink or white noise on the background by itself.
      - Playing pink or white noise on the background and have TV, radio, or music on top at louder volume.
      - Playing pink or white noise on headphones, very low volume, and have TV, radio, or music on top at louder volume.
      - Play music you like on headphones, very low volume, and try to talk to friends or family.

      These sorts of simple exercises not only train your hearing but also your brain.
       
    6. serendipity1996
      No Mood

      serendipity1996 Member Podcast Patron Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      2011
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown but suspect noise-induced
      Yeah, I agree. I have much the same issue with my hyperacusis - it's not triggered so much by volume but by the type of noise I am exposed to - tinny artificial audio sources also give me problems when I'm spiking. Hyperacusis seems to vary widely from case to case so just because we can tolerate the ambient noise in a big city doesn't mean we don't have hyperacusis. Also the way my ears react is pretty consistent with people's descriptions of what pain hyperacusis feels like.
       
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