Sound Therapy to Reduce Auditory Gain for Hyperacusis and Tinnitus

James A. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Hyperacusis is the most common of the different types of sound tolerance conditions. It has been defined as physical discomfort or pain when any sound reaches a certain level of loudness that would be comfortable for most people. Because hyperacusis and tinnitus occur together so often, it has been theorized that they have a common neural mechanism. A leading contender for that mechanism is enhancement of auditory gain. The purpose of this tutorial is to review the evidence that sound/acoustic therapy can reduce auditory gain and, thereby, can increase loudness tolerance for people with hyperacusis and/ or suppress the percept of tinnitus. Method: The scientific literature was informally reviewed to identify and elucidate relationships between tinnitus, hyperacusis, sound therapy, and auditory gain. Results: Evidence exists, both in animal and human studies, that enhanced auditory gain is associated with hyperacusis and tinnitus. Further evidence supports the theory that certain forms of sound therapy can reduce neural hyperactivity, thereby reducing auditory gain. The evidence for sound therapy reducing auditory gain is stronger for hyperacusis than it is for tinnitus. Conclusions: Based on results from numerous studies, sound therapy clearly has application as a method of desensitization for hyperacusis. Enhanced auditory gain might be responsible for tinnitus, but other mechanisms have been theorized. A review of the relevant literature leads to the conclusion that some form(s) of sound therapy has the potential to suppress or eliminate tinnitus on a long-term basis. Systematic research is needed to evaluate this premise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1067-1077
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of audiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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