Rare Disease Renders Mother Unable to Bear the Sound of Her Beloved Children’s Laughter

An English woman suffering from a rare condition known as painful hyperacusis says that everyday noises, such as her children’s laughter, her friends’ voices, and even music cause her paralyzing pain.

Until 18 months ago, Karen Cook worked as a cabin crew and lived a perfectly normal life with her husband and their two boys. But then she started experiencing something strange and painful. Most of us shudder at the thought of losing our sense of hearing, but what if that same sense was amplified by orders of magnitude, making everyday sounds, no matter how soothing, impossible to bear? That’s what Karen started experiencing in 2022 when her hyperacusis suddenly set in. All of a sudden, sound became torture for her. The voices of loved ones, chatting with friends, or listening to her favorite music caused her unbearable headaches to the point where she began to isolate herself just to make them stop.

Photo: Mark Paton/Unsplash

“It’s like someone poured hot lava into my ears and my head is on fire, my whole head hurts, especially behind my eyes,” Karen recently told the BBC. “It’s like a migraine, like you want to open your head to relieve the pressure.”

Ever since she was originally diagnosed with hyperacusis, Karen has been trying to cure, or at least keep its symptoms in check, but things have been getting worse. She now spends most of her time indoors, because she can’t handle all the noise of the outside world, and even when she is home alone, she wears earplugs and noise blockers to protect herself.


On Christmas day, while her sons, ages 7 and 11, were excitedly opening their presents, she was in the next room watching them from behind a window, because she just couldn’t handle listening to their loud voices and laughter.

“Something as beautiful as my children’s laughter, hearing their voices, is like torture for me,” the 49-year-old woman said. “I would sit and watch them through the window opening their Christmas presents because it was too noisy for me to be in the room and they would come up to the window and show them to me.”


Karen, from Southport, in the northwest of England, used to be very active and outdoorsy, but today her main priority is protecting herself from the physical pain caused by sound. Her life has changed completely and the only thing that keeps her going are her kids. She is determined to fight and hopefully find a way to treat this insidious condition, but so far nothing has worked.

Posted in News        Tags: , , , , ,