A 14-year-old girl was left with permanent crippling ear pain after her friend’s stepfather blasted an air horn in her face because she took a phone call at the dinner table.
Cindy Redmond was sitting at the dinner table in her friend’s house waiting for food to be served when she answered her cell phone.
Annoyed by her slow comply to hang up, the friend’s stepfather blew an air horn in her face, which Cindy said caused a pop in her head and excruciating pain that has lingered ever since.
Cindy was diagnosed with a rare incurable disorder called hyperacusis which causes every day sounds such as babies crying, people talking and sirens blowing to induce a burning and stabbing sensation in her ears.
The life-altering condition that has forced her to stay in the quiet isolation of her home. Without a cure, she will continue to be home-schooled, miss family functions and may never be able to experience concerts, parties, or even get a job.
Cindy Redmond, 14, suffers severe pain deep in her ear from every day noises including a baby’s cry, sirens and a room full of talking people
She now wears noise blocking headphones and uses a special white and pink noise producing ear piece as a form of sound therapy
Hyperacusis is a rare disorder described as super-sensitivity and pain to certain ranges of sounds that most people find as normal.
Cindy described the pain from noise as a stabbing and burning sensation compared to molten lava or ice picks in her ears.
She told Daily Mail Online that since the initial air horn incident, she constantly feels pain at a level of a six, but it only takes a moment of high-pitched sound to send her into debilitating pain for more than an hour.
And if she is exposed to prolonged noise, it could take Cindy two days to recover.
The noise-sensitivity she experiences has turned her home into a sanctuary as the safest and quietest place she knows, according to her mother Laurie Redmond.
The two live in North Wilmington, Delaware, and now have to plan their outings for times that they think are the least populated.
‘For her 14th birthday she wanted to go to the aquarium. Twenty minutes in she was sobbing from the pain,’ said Laurie.
Laurie told Daily Mail Online that even their home, which doubles as Cindy’s school, has red flags including the ice-maker, their dog’s bark, the garage door and outside noise from sirens.
She worries that her daughter won’t be able to live a normal life due to her inability to be around people.
‘We can’t avoid babies,’ Laurie said, ‘Everyone smiles and says ”aw” and her face crumples.’
Hyperacusis is an extremely rare condition that is a poorly studied phenomenon.
Sufferers become extremely sensitive to sounds. Noise that is normal to most people can seem unusually loud and even painful.
The condition is believed to be caused either by damage to nerves in the inner ear or by neurological damage.
A broad definition characterizes the condition as ‘sensitivity to everyday sounds’. In the US, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 5.9 percent of people had the condition based on that definition.
Last year, a breakthrough in research found that nerve fibers in the ear whose functions were previously unknown, were actually pain receptors.
Before this discovery, researchers looked at the brain and middle ear to explain sound-induced pain.
But studies from Northwestern University and John Hopkins have shown pain receptor-like behavior from nerves connected to outer hair cells, which are the most susceptible to sound-induced damage.
There is no surgical cure but doctors have told Cindy the best treatment is to be exposed to sound 100 percent of the time.
She wears a special earpiece resembling a hearing aide that produces white and pink noise as a form of sound therapy, but so far has not seen results.
After four days of experiencing pain from being blasted in the face with an air horn, Cindy was in the emergency room because she couldn’t bare the sound of the outside world
Cindy’s mom Laurie Redmond took her to more than six types of doctors before an occupational therapist diagnosed her daughter with hyperacusis
Cindy’s ear trauma was caused after her friend’s stepfather blew an air horn in her face after being annoyed by her talking on her phone with another friend at the dinner table.
‘It felt like a giant pop in my head and ears, and from then on my ears hurt like someone was stabbing me or I’m getting burned,’ Cindy said.
The pain persisted and after four days she was in the emergency room.
For six months doctors said Cindy had an inner ear canal infection, prescribing her with Tylenol coated in codeine.
‘It helped Cindy’s pain but it made her a zombie,’ Laurie said of the pain medication.
They sought help from a wide range of doctors including hearing disorder specialists, occupational therapists, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologist, ENTs, audiologist and allergists.
It wasn’t until an occupational therapist, who had previously learned about hyperacusis, recognized the case and diagnosed Cindy.
The Redmond’s said the man who blew the air horn in Cindy’s face has never apologized, but the two have tried to find forgiveness and have decided to not seek legal action.
Cindy said: ‘It was a lot of anger at first and then turned into sadness realizing that my entire world had crumbled.’
She has lost friends who think she has made up her condition and her friend’s stepfather doesn’t allow the girls to see each other anymore, though they still communicate online at times.
Cindy said her dad’s side of the family is very big and loud so she has had to miss holidays and hasn’t seem many of them for nearly a year.
There is no cure for hyperacusis, so Cindy wears noise-blocking headphones to go outside and interact with people
The condition is extremely under-researched and Cindy hopes a cure will be discovered soon so she can enjoy the experiences that most teenagers her age are having
Bryan Pollard, president of Hyperacusis Research, told Daily Mail Online that he founded the non-profit organization after he was diagnosed with hyperacusis due to sound trauma from a wood chipper eight years ago.
He realized how poorly-researched this was and works with scientists from around the world for a cure.
Right now he estimates 12 to 15 studies are being conducted worldwide examining the the condition’s cause and possibilities of a cure.
And while Bryan is affected less in one ear than the other and able to continue daily life, Cindy’s case makes everyday life unbearable.
The now ninth-grader is in a homeschooling group of nine teens her age who meet once a week, which is the extent of sound she can handle.
‘She loved to be around other people and loved to be social,’ Laurie said.
Now Cindy is grappling with her new lifestyle and working with Hyperacusis Research to find a cure so she can go back to school and experience her teenage years with her friends.