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Tired Women, when Stressed, become Hypersensitive to Sound

Update Date: Jan 16, 2013 08:49 AM EST

If stress is added on to the brow of already tired women, it makes them hypersensitive to sound, a recent study conducted from Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute revealed.

For the study, 348 individuals aged between 23 and 71 were taken, 208 of which were women and 140 men. All of them suffered from low, medium or high levels of emotional exhaustion.

Emotional exhaustion generally results from continuously responding to a high level of demands, be it in a job or in personal circumstances. This results in an individual feeling stressed and tired very easily and leading to a feeling of being emotionally squeezed out, both physically and mentally.

These exhausted individuals were then exposed to different kinds of stress for five minutes. The stress was of three categories; physical stress involved putting the hand in ice, mental stress involved having undergone a stress test and social stress involved getting observed by people.

The results demonstrated that women who had higher emotional exhaustion were extremely sensitive to sound after inducing them with stress. They were able to discern sounds as low as 60 decibels and an ordinary conversation became too loud for them to tolerate.

There were a couple of other observations made from the study:

  • Women with low levels of exhaustion were not so sensitive to sound after being exposed to stress.
  • The sensitivity to sound was not as highly affected by stress in the case of men

"When you are hypersensitive to sound, some normal sounds, such as the rattle of cutlery or the sound of a car engine, can feel ear-piercing. Given how common it is for people to work in environments with different kinds of disturbing sounds, this hypersensitivity can be really disabling for certain individuals," Dan Hasson, Associate Professor at Karolinska Institute's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and affiliated to Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute, was quoted as saying in Medical Express.

"Serious forms of sound hypersensitivity can force people to isolate themselves and avoid potentially distressing situations and environments. Our study indicates that exhaustion level and stress are additional factors that might have to be taken into account when diagnosing and treating hearing problems," Dan Hasson added.

The study is published PLOS ONE, an online scientific journal.

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