Hyperacusis is the term used to describe one of the many hypersensitivities that autistic people often experience – this one being specific to one of our eight major senses: sound. I have described elsewhere the torture of what this is like for some of us. Sounds are amplified, they can be distorted, piercing, thrumming to the point where it’s impossible to ascertain whether they are in our heads or in the outside world. It’s torture – often physically painful – particularly high pitches and low humming. These may well have so little effect on other people, that they don’t even notice them. This makes it really difficult to affect change, in the workplace for instance, if the sufferer is in the minority.

Hyperacusis can be experienced by anyone in the neurodiverse population (that’s everyone in the world); people who have experienced overexposure to repetitive or loud noise over time are more vulnerable to it.

It appears in this glossary because it is a frequently co-occurring condition for autistic people. Additionally, those who are particularly sensitive to sound are also more likely to suffer with tinnitus. There can be many sounds and pitches, even loud ones, that have no detrimental effect on people with hyperacusis – it is usually quite specific. For nonspeaking autistics in particular, of all ages, without the ability to communicate the cause of this extreme discomfort, hyperacusis is likely to lead to meltdowns and other stress-related responses. For anyone who suffers with this condition, it can be incredibly debilitating.

You will find more general information on hypersensitivity ← by clicking here.

As described elsewhere, it is worth knowing that many of the larger supermarkets in the UK now have fixed periods each week called Quiet Hours where the tannoy announcements are reduced, the checkout bleeps are quietened and the lighting is dimmed. The days and times vary, so it’s best to Google your preferred supermarket and ‘quiet hours’ or ‘sensory friendly’ hours. Lidl refers to them as ‘Autism aware hours’. Whatever they’re called, it’s progress!