Sensitivity to noises - can hypnotherapy help?

Sensitivity to noises – can hypnotherapy help?

We know that hypnotherapy can be a useful treatment for tinnitus, especially combined with other approaches.  But can it be useful for sensitivity to noises from the environment?


Sensitivity to noises is becoming increasingly common. Even as traditional heavy industries decline we are seeing generations who have been exposed to loud noise from other sources, particularly through headphones.

Broadly speaking there are three different types of sensitivity to noises, and we’ll look at them in turn to see if hypnotherapy can be a useful adjunct to other therapies. Those three types are

  • Hyperacusis
    Misophonia
    Phonophobia

As with all conditions if you think that you have one of these you should visit your GP. They can examine your ears and then refer you to an audiologist or an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for any more specialist tests or treatment.

Hyperacusis – what is it?

Hyperacusis is reduced tolerance to normal levels of noise, and for those affected it is normally a gradual process. Over time peoples’ Loudness Discomfort Levels (LDLs) reduce, and the volume of noise that they can tolerate becomes progressively lower. The reaction to noise can be physically, as well as emotionally, painful for those with hyperacusis.

Hyperacusis – treatment

The treatment for hyperacusis can include using ‘pink noise’ generators to retrain your ears, and desensitize your hearing. The other treatment includes talking therapies, such as counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and making lifestyle changes to reduce stress, and to stop any noise avoidance behavior. Hypnotherapy, as long as carried out by a hypnotherapist trained in hyperacusis CBT techniques, can be useful.

Misophonia – what is it?

Misophonia, the ‘strong dislike of sound’, sees people unable to tolerate specific sounds. In misophonia it doesn’t matter what volume the sound is at. It is not hyperacusis because the problem noise can be quite soft and still trigger a reaction. At the same time noises that aren’t problematic can be tolerated at high volumes, and their Loudness Discomfort Levels (LDLs) are normal.

Typical examples of problem noises in misophonia are the sounds of other people eating, drinking, sniffing or coughing, and they are typically worse where people can see the source of the noise as well. The reaction is not of disgust at these noises, but of anxiety, panic or even anger.

Misophonia – treatment

Many people with misophonia resort to avoidance behavior, and attempt to isolate themselves from the source of the noise. That can mean no longer eating with other members of the family, wearing earplugs or using headphones. This avoidance behavior can very soon become problematic, and can make for great difficulties at work as well as at home.

The treatment for misophonia is similar to that for hyperacusis, but with less need for noise generators. It can also resemble Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, which helps people to drop their focus on their tinnitus noise. Again, hypnotherapy can be useful, but needs a therapist experienced in at least CBT and tinnitus work.

Phonophobia – what is it?

Phonophobia is a fear of sound, and can result from people’s experience or hyperacusis or misophonia. As well as being unable to tolerate the sounds at the time they occur, people with phonophobia start to fear encountering those sounds in the future.

As a result they can isolate themselves socially and emotionally. This will only exacerbate their condition, as will using earplugs or headphones to drown out noises.

Phonophobia – treatment

Phonophobia needs to be treated by a specialist, as the underlying hyperacusis or misophonia needs to be treated at the same time. If you feel that you, or someone you know, may have phonophobia then your first step should be to see your GP. They can refer you for the tests and treatment that you may need.

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