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Mother-of-two says rare health condition means sounds including her children laughing ‘tortures her’ as certain noises leave her in agonising physical pain and force her to talk through written notes or whispers


  • Do you have pain hyperacusis? Email: gina.kalsi@mailonline.co.uk

A mother with a rare health condition has revealed it means certain noises leave her in agony, including the sound of her own children laughing. 

Karen Cook, from Southport, Merseyside, has a condition called pain hyperacusis, which is where everyday sounds seem louder than they should and cause intense pain. 

The 49-year-old says she is in so much agony she had to watch her two sons, aged seven and 11, excitedly open their Christmas presents through a window. 

She said the condition developed suddenly in 2022 and has gradually worsened over the years, adding that every day is ‘Groundhog Day’. 

Noises such as the rustling of leaves or traffic driving past her house are enough to trigger discomfort. 

Do you have pain hyperacusis? Email: gina.kalsi@mailonline.co.uk

Karen Cook says she is in so much agony with pain hyperacusis that she had to watch her two sons, aged seven and 11, excitedly open their Christmas presents through a window

Karen Cook says she is in so much agony with pain hyperacusis that she had to watch her two sons, aged seven and 11, excitedly open their Christmas presents through a window

The 49-year-old said she can only communicate through written notes and whispers, adding that she wears noise-cancelling ear plugs and ear defenders even when she's home alone

The 49-year-old said she can only communicate through written notes and whispers, adding that she wears noise-cancelling ear plugs and ear defenders even when she’s home alone

‘Something as beautiful as my children’s laughter, hearing their voices – is like torture for me,’ she told BBC North West.

I miss just life, I sat and watched them through the window opening their Christmas presents, because it was too loud for me to be in the room and they’d come up to the window and show me.

‘It’s completely erased me,’ she said, fighting back tears. ‘Honestly if I didn’t have children, I’d have given up.’

Karen can only communicate through written notes and whispers, adding that she wears noise-cancelling ear plugs and ear defenders even when she’s home alone. 

The mother-of-two said that the sensation she experiences when she hears sound is like ‘someone pouring burning lava into my ears’.

Karen likens the sensation she experiences to a migraine. ‘It’s like you want to split your head open to relieve the pressure,’ she said. 

Her husband, Nick, says he feels as though he is losing not only the love of his life and the mother of his children but also his ‘best friend’. 

The family used to go on camping trips and and skiing holidays before Karen’s rare health condition.

Karen Cook before she was diagnosed with pain hyperacusis

Karen Cook before she was diagnosed with pain hyperacusis

The mother-of-two said that the sensation she experiences when she hears sound is like 'someone pouring burning lava into my ears'

The mother-of-two said that the sensation she experiences when she hears sound is like ‘someone pouring burning lava into my ears’

The former air hostess said she misses dressing up and going on date nights with her partner of 20 years, chatting on the phone to friends and listening to music.

‘We’d have no plans, we’d just go out for the day and wherever we ended up it was fantastic,’ he told the outlet.

But now ‘everything’ about their family has changed. 

Karen has tried treatments such as introducing white noise into her routine to build up tolerance, medications and holistic therapies but nothing has helped. 

Nevertheless, she remains ‘determined’ to find a cure and she has promised herself to try everything and anything.’

What is hyperacusis?  

According to the NHS website, hyperacusis is where everyday sounds seem much louder to you than they should. 

It can affect one of both ears and can come on suddenly or develop over time. 

People who have the condition may be triggered by sounds such as:

  • Jingling coins
  • Barking dog
  • Car engine
  • Someone chewing
  • Vacuum cleaner

 The cause of hyperacusis is currently unknown but it can appear after hearing a sudden loud noise, such as fireworks. 

It can also appear alongside:

  • Tinnitus 
  • A head injury 
  • Ménière’s disease 
  • Bell’s palsy 
  • Lyme disease 
  • Migraines 
  • Williams syndrome 
  • Autism



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