Summer is widely cherished as the most enjoyable season by the vast majority of people, which is unsurprising given that its long days and pleasant weather make it the perfect time for outdoor activities, celebrations, and spending time with your family and friends. However, for individuals with hyperacusis — a form of decreased sound tolerance that can make ordinary sounds excessively loud, discomforting, and sometimes painful — summer is not a time of joy, but rather a season that poses considerable physical and mental challenges.
A primary reason summer is physically challenging for individuals with hyperacusis is because the season becomes inundated with countless parades, carnivals, parties, and other events teeming with noxious noise that can be difficult to avoid. While these occasions are sources of enjoyment for most people, they pose significant risks for those with this condition. Recent instances of extraordinarily loud events include Canada Day on July 1st and Independence Day on July 4th. These days are full of excessively loud noise that originates from barbeques, music, parades, and, most popularly, fireworks. Although fireworks may simply appear to be nothing more than a captivating spectacle of colour and light, most individuals remain unaware of the detrimental effects they can have on one’s auditory health. According to The Academy of Hearing Centres, fireworks can produce sound levels reaching up to 150-175 decibels, which is a dangerous range for everyone, as any sound over 120 decibels can permanently damage an individual’s auditory system. Unsurprisingly, for hyperacusis sufferers, a noise reaching these levels can catastrophically worsen their condition and cause immense pain even if they are far away, inside, and wearing ear protection.
With that said, an equal concern for hyperacusis sufferers is the commonplace and everyday sounds that are exceedingly harder to avoid. Birds, crickets, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, thunderstorms, motorcycles, sports, and construction work are just a few examples of the noises that render a normal life almost impossible for those with hyperacusis. Many of these noises are additionally heightened in the summer because it coincides with the period that most people are on vacation from work and school, which causes these sounds to take on a greater frequency and intensity.
Adopting a reclusive lifestyle to shield oneself from noxious noise may seem like an incredibly excessive step, but for many sufferers, even living in near-total isolation within the confines of their home is not enough to escape from the threatening sounds of the summer. Unfortunately, many of the aforementioned sounds are still simply too loud and continue to cause discomfort and pain, which pressures hyperacusis sufferers to wear ear protection and make costly changes to their houses. A past article by Hyperacusis Central offers insights on the adjustments that can be made within one’s home to reduce noise, including for cooking, bathing, and soundproofing windows and walls.
Although some of these difficulties caused by summer-related noise can be mitigated, there is a much harder element of the season that hyperacusis sufferers have difficulty avoiding: the heat. While ordinary individuals can seek refuge from the sweltering weather in their homes with air conditioning, fans, and refreshing showers, these appliances often threaten to aggravate the symptoms for those with hyperacusis, which makes them less suitable. Additionally, many sufferers wear bulky earmuffs that can quickly become extremely irritating in warm weather, due to perspiration.
With many of the physical challenges sufferers face in the summer now being evident, it is equally important to discuss some of the mental health concerns that arise as well. It comes as no surprise that individuals with hyperacusis encounter notable mental obstacles during the summer, considering that the previously discussed physical challenges can leave them feeling overwhelmed by worry. The burdens they endure during this period often mentally manifest themselves as heightened anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and recurring episodes of depression.
A significant struggle many hyperacusis sufferers experience is the profound mental anguish of seeing those around them leading fulfilling lives, pursuing careers, and starting families, while they feel trapped in perpetual isolation and deprived of the activities that once defined their identities. This fear of missing out is intensified during the summer because hyperacusis sufferers are aware that others are experiencing the joyful aspects of the season, such as going to the beach, amusement parks, fairs, and so forth, while they often find themselves incapable of participating in almost any positive and engaging activities, which imposes severe psychological and emotional tribulations on them. Moreover, even simple undertakings that are often taken for granted, like enjoying the warmth of the sun or listening to the melodic chirping of birds, become impossible for many individuals with hyperacusis.
If you are currently experiencing difficulties with hyperacusis, one helpful approach is to seek out enjoyable and distracting activities or projects that are devoid of excessive noise or sound. Hyperacusis Central has recently published an article listing ideas, such as reading, writing, video games, and more that you might find useful. Additionally, if you know someone who is struggling with hyperacusis, it is important to understand that they are not isolating themselves because they want to, but rather because they want to prevent themselves from worsening. Given these circumstances, it would likely be very meaningful to them if you were willing to engage in silent activities with them and communicate in ways that accommodate their disability.
Thus, the warm summer weather, which so many love, can cause hyperacusis sufferers tremendous distress and discomfort, but It is my hope that by recognizing and understanding the unique challenges that hyperacusis sufferers face, we can all help build a more inclusive and supportive environment for those affected by this condition.