Tom Maholchic: Hyperacusis with Pain

When I hear a noise, it kind of enters my
ear and explodes through my head and kind of down my neck. People describe it as someone sticking ice picks in my ears. After the noise, my ear kind of starts
to get hot or warm. Someone’s pouring molten metal in my ears. It’s almost like the energy from that noise
is like stuck in my head. There can be like knifing kind of cramp, shooting pains. These people with hyperacusis with pain, it lingers in exactly the same way as if you cut your skin, the pain sensation lingers long after the actual cut is over. I was working at a restaurant and a dish broke. My ear just started ringing, and everything, it was kind of like a movie, where like you know, the bomb goes off, then all of a sudden everything gets quiet, and there’s the high-pitched ringing. And then after that, like my ears just felt
really kind of sore and worn. If you had a broken arm, you’d get some
sympathy, but people with hyperacusis are going on suffering without anybody knowing about it. I had to quit my job, and I tried doing a
part time job from home, which seemed like an ideal situation, and that was even too much for me. People with hyperacusis with pain tend to
become recluses. Some of them won’t go out during the day
because it’s too noisy, and the sounds hurt them too much. Some only come out with ear muffs on to protect
their hearing. He was a pretty social person, and now he is not. He’s a very solitary person, which is very sad. We are his social life, pretty much. I don’t really know what I would be doing
if my parents didn’t let me move back in with them. The things we’ve had to do to transform the house and make it friendly for Tom is to like put new acoustic windows throughout, put rugs everywhere downstairs, in the kitchen and the bathroom, places we didn’t normally have rugs. I constantly am just trying to relax, take deep breaths and just like try and release some of the tension that I feel. What keeps me motivated is, I’m trying to become a sustainable, independent person. Painting is really just a great way to get out my creativity, because I can’t really play music anymore. And I like to paint my dreams. So I always kind of try and like think about
like, you know, what I’ve done. It’s just very relaxing to be in the moment. It was like another lifetime before this all
happened. I think the thing that he’s doing now by going through this with you guys, and going to the doctor, is showing one of the four cardinal virtues, which is courage. You can’t treat a condition unless you understand the condition. So obviously money’s very important to go toward research, so they can try and figure out what are the mechanisms behind this awful thing? That research is going on here at Mass.Eye and Ear. Through basic research, the impossible becomes possible, and then the possible becomes a reality. And so there is hope. If researchers came up with a cure for hyperacusis, that would be amazing. Tom would have a life again.


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