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Phonophobia, misophonia or hyperacusis – are they all the same?


From Cai Salud, with this article, we want to help you to differentiate between phonophobia, misophonia or hyperacusis, so that, if you suffer from it in Alicante, Torrevieja or Calpe, you can come and visit us and we will offer you all our personalised advice, and if you are far from the province of Alicante, at least we can help you with our knowledge expressed in the blog.


Phonophobia, also called phonophobia, is a fear of certain loud sounds. The name “Phonophobia” is derived from the Greek words sound and fear.

Causes of phonophobia

An intense and unexpected sound can cause anxiety attacks in someone suffering from phonophobia. Some people who suffer from phonophobia may be afraid of devices that can suddenly emit loud sounds, such as alarms.

For example, just listening to loud music can be really uncomfortable when there are ups and downs in the sound, they can become anxious. Being frightened is in itself a normal reaction, but the key difference is that people with phonophobia actively fear this happening.

Symptoms of phonophobia

Phonophobia shares a number of symptoms with other anxiety disorders. Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Desire to flee
  • Intense fear of loud sounds
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Panic attack
  • Fainting
  • Severe mood swings after hearing the loud sound

Treatment of phonophobia

There is no single, proven treatment that can cure phonophobia. However, popular types of therapy have proven useful in helping people cope with the symptoms associated with phonophobia.

Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy are among the most popular. They can be used in combination with prescription drugs to help reduce anxiety and relieve stress.

Phonophobia should not be confused with hyperacusis (hypersensitivity to certain sounds) or misophonia (strong reaction to specific sounds). But phonophobia can sometimes refer to an extreme form of misophonia, at Cai Salud we want to help you, come and visit us.


The sound of other people chewing (especially if they chew with their mouths open), or the sound of the second hand of a clock ticking the time, the sound of one drop and another falling from a tap, or someone tapping the button with a pen, are some examples of sounds that can annoy many people. Is this a problem?

The word comes from the Greek Misos (hatred) and phonia (sound), and was coined by Margaret and Pawel Jastreboff, according to the American Academy of Audiology, and is defined as “extreme sensitivity to specific soft sounds and images that can cause extreme reactions”, according to the Institute of Misophonia.

Antonio Cano, a psychologist specialising in cognition, emotion and health, points out that the mere use of the word is a mistake: “The etymology of the word leads to the construction of a term that does not exist in everyday language and neither does it exist in scientific language”. If we look in the RAE “the word misophonia is not registered”.

“We all have our philias and our phobias. We all have our philias and our phobias, things in everyday life that we deal with, such as sounds, which can annoy us,” says Cano. And yes, it could be a sign of a disorder, but not a disorder per se.


In some cases, sounds such as the rubbing of clothing can cause severe pain in the person.

Hyperacusis can have a major impact on a patient’s life, dramatically reducing their social skills and causing limitations at work, keeping them away from ordinary working environments.


While Hyperacusis is a condition that is defined by a general symptom, which is hypersensitivity to everyday sounds, there are other symptoms or signs that could facilitate the correct diagnosis of the disease.

When it comes to cochlear hyperacusis, the intolerance is accompanied by ear pain, sensation of foreign objects, panic, difficult to justify crying and even tinnitus.

In the case of vestibular hypersensitivity, we find these same symptoms together with dizziness and vertigo, especially with unpleasant sounds. Come and visit us at Cai Salud, we want to help you.

Causes of Hyperacusis

Science has identified a number of causes behind this pathology.

  • Exposure to high decibel levels over a long period of time
  • Aggressive exposure to volume levels, as in the case of firing a weapon and airbag deployment in the case of a vehicle traffic accident.
  • Brain contusion.
  • Lyme disease.
  • Ménière’s disease.
  • Tinnitus.
  • Injury from ear surgery.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders.
  • Dehiscence of the superior semicircular canal of the inner ear.
  • Peripheral facial paralysis.
  • A migraine
  • Williams syndrome.
  • Depression.
  • Treatment of Hyperacusis
  • Most cases of hyperacusis today are treated with broadband noise and pink noise therapies. Tinnitus retraining therapy is also used to treat hyperacusis.

The treatment of this disorder, whatever therapy is chosen, consists of re-establishing the ear’s tolerance to sound. Therefore, achieving results requires a great deal of commitment on the part of the patient, who has to comply with the routines established by the ENT specialist.

In many cases, steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed to complement the selected treatment.

Preventive measures

With the causes identified, it is difficult to establish a set of preventive measures that are foolproof. However, the first action we can take for the health of our hearing in terms of its tolerance to sound is not to expose ourselves to high levels of noise.

The first action we can take for the health of our hearing in terms of its tolerance to sound is not to expose ourselves to high levels of noise.

There is also evidence that some medications may cause hyperacusis as a side effect. For this reason, you should stop taking any medication if you feel a heightened sensitivity to sound and consult a doctor. At Cai Salud we want to help you, come and visit us and we will advise you.

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