Editor’s note: “Need to Know” is a series inspired by common forum questions and comments from readers. Have a comment or question about MS? Visit our forums. This week’s question is inspired by the forum topic “Do Noise and Crowds Tend to Negatively Affect You More with MS?” from November 15, 2018.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you probably celebrated Independence Day last week. And if you live with multiple sclerosis, you will know that the loud parties and popping fireworks are unsettling for more than just the local fire marshall.
These noisy, crowded celebrations leave pet owners and parents of small children ducking for cover — and people with MS are right behind them, with a “No, thank you” to invitations to municipal fireworks displays.
Why do we become sensitive to noise and crowds as a result of MS?
You can thank MS for ‘janky’ nerves
The outcome of demyelination is the deterioration of myelin, the coating of our nerves. If you have ever experienced an exposed nerve while visiting the dentist, then you know the painful, “janky” sensation of a nerve struck and vibrating like a plucked guitar string.
Even partial loss of the waxy coating results in amplification of sensations that are part of the signaling process. This explains why you may be jumpy when you hear sudden noises — you’re neurologically more sensitive to them.
There’s a band playing in your head
Hyperacusis is a potentially debilitating hearing disorder that can be caused by nerve damage to areas of the brain that process hearing, leading to a heightened sensitivity to ranges and frequencies of sounds. These painful sensations can be felt across the ears and face.
Tinnitus — or ringing of the ears — is often a companion to hyperacusis. The ringing can be a high-pitched background buzz or whine, or it can literally sound like you are in a belfry with the Hunchback of Notre Dame surrounded by pealing bells.
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