Addendum to publication: Does Barking Bother You?


Addendum to publication. “Does Barking Bother You”.

Deafness: Mild moderate or severe. Recruitment: Mild moderate or severe


Tinnitus: Mild moderate or severe. Hyperacusis: Mild moderate or severe.

Hyperacusis can be described as a collapse of tolerance to certain sounds.

Protective mechanisms in the auditory system that minimize the effects of loud or repetitious noise become damaged or malfunctioning resulting in physically uncomfortable amplification of sound.

The following study provides insights into hyperacusis exacerbation or inducement, by short impulse noise, created by chronic exposure to neighborhood barking dogs and other types of short impulse noise.

Throughout Australia peoples lives are being devastated by this escalating problem.

The following information has been compiled by

Anitra Thomas ND.( Naturopath ) Dip Chinese Acupuncture.

Whole Health Naturopathics.

14 Palmer St. Millbank. Bundaberg. 4670. Qld. Australia.

Ph 07 4151 7819. email

R.F.R.P.O. Residents For Responsible Pet Ownership.

PO Box. 1892. Bundaberg. 4670 Qld.

Barking Dog Action Group Australia”

American division

7 Nov 2005




It has long perplexed both sides of the warring parties as to why people exposed to chronically barking dogs become so upset when being subjected to a bombardment of this type of noise.

Noxious dog-owners (NDO’s) can indeed tolerate their own dog’s noise as can some other members of the public. After talking to numerous people about this issue it has become apparent that the dog-owners, who are medically intolerant to such noise, do not let their dogs bark as a matter of course, without making a conscious decision.

Those medically tolerant are far more likely to instill barking habits into their dogs, also with little thought.

The complainants, many who own dogs themselves, are seen as SOCIALLY intolerant it seems, by all other parties. Their ‘attitude’ is blamed by many in positions of authority.

It is apparent that something is going on in the ears and nervous systems of people who suffer from this type of auditory assault.

A search to solve this puzzle began with a chance meeting with a person employed in audiology. Surely such professionals could throw some light on the subject. After much discussion, the following question was posed. “Why, after a period of exposure to a barking dog, does the noise begin to amplify inside the person’s head in a most distressful manner?” No immediate response was forthcoming.

Audiologists primarily treat progressive deafness and tinnitus. Few members of the public suffering from noise sensitivity to a barking dog would ever consider going to an audiologist as the public is educated to link Audiology with hearing LOSS, hearing aids and possibly tinnitus. Sufferers with noise sensitivity problems, when approaching their GPs, are also met with a stony response and suggestions that they may need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist.

In order to better understand a permanently sensitized hearing response to “woof, woof, woof”, which can feel like an electrical shock wave pulsing through the ears and head, a search for an answer began in earnest.

During many phone calls to audiologists a tiny word was noticed in one ad. ‘Hyperacusis’. This word opened the door to a beginning of understanding that there were indeed medical implications to this type of auditory phenomenon.

Hyperacusis means decreased sound tolerance or a collapse of tolerance to sound. Now we have it medically described and validated, at last.

The sound is no longer merely irritating or annoying it has become so distressful that it triggers a serious mental and emotional response, which affects the nervous and immune systems causing health damage.

A careful internet search began. A booking was made to have a series of hearing tests with a local hospital audiologist who was conversant with the problem. He was most helpful and supplied information links to specialists who were treating such disorders and carrying out research. This condition, common across all age groups in society, is ‘hidden away’ in the medical departments of Otology, Neuro-Otology, Neurophysiology and Otolaryngology. People who end up in the specialist’s office are usually only the extreme cases who have exhausted every other possible avenue of medical help.

Many complainant, when experiencing ongoing exposure to the unique sound of noxious barking, go through a predictable period of sound specific neuronal auditory sensitisation.

At first the sound is barely noticed

Then the sound becomes noticeable

The sound becomes irritating

The sound becomes stressful

The sound becomes intolerable.

The person begins to feel traumatized

The sound seems to feel almost painful

The person tries to cope, with declining ability to do so

The person begins to feel phobic and wishes only to avoid the sound.

Avoidance strategies build up

The person feels despairing in their need to get away from it

Their whole life begins to be affected by the sound.

The exposure causes both psychological, nervous and auditory reactions.

Anxiety and tension grows as the person dreads the next unpredictable exposure.

As exposure continues, the sound amplification process gradually builds until every dog within a mile can be clearly heard. Those whose ears are still intact can’t understand what all the fuss is about. The sufferer adapts to the increasing volume, with little understanding of what is going on inside their own head.

Due to a lack of public education and common medical knowledge about this disorder, the victim has no idea what is happening. According to the research viewed to date, the person is now suffering from neuronal auditory and mental health damage, resulting in physiological and biochemical responses, outside their control.

When asked why there seems to be so little awareness of this condition, the helpful audiologist stated that it was all about research funding. Deafness was a much more lucrative business. Means to assess this disorder were not as clear cut as simple well developed hearing tests for deafness. Nevertheless, the condition is valid. It does exist; it is not social intolerance; it is a medically definable disorder of HEARING DAMAGE.

Hyperacusis, in one extreme form, results in a person no longer being able to tolerate any normal sounds generated in a day to day, suburban environment. These people have either micro fractures to the skull near to the ear from impact injury or suffer from bone thinning. They are generally forced to withdraw from society. They are in the extreme minority.

The most common forms of hyperacusis are sound specific. Intolerance develops to a few different sounds or a single sound. The sound does not need to be exceptionally loud. The person may also have a degree of co-existing deafness, tinnitus or other specific sound sensitivity. Most have perfectly normal responses to hearing tests. When one considers the predisposition to developing hyperacusis from numerous environmental and medical risks, it is inevitable that this condition is far more insidious and more wide- spread than is realized. Many people with this disorder do not go to a Doctor or an Audiologist with their complaint, as the level of noise heard inside their head feels perfectly normal. They can’t understand why others seem to be bothered less by it and may accuse them of being deaf.

Public education is non-existent. A non-medically trained Environmental Health Officers, (EHO) , Animal Control Officers, (ACO), and other Council staff, have no understanding of this disorder with the result that they unwittingly encourage ongoing damage to the auditory and mental health of members of the public. Councils, Local Law Officers and Environmental Health Departments have adopted policies that permit hourly and half- hourly doses of repetitious impulsed noise being forced onto surrounding neighbors’ properties and homes on-going. Because the noise comes from a dog they prefer to avoid interceding. Indirectly, dogs and their owners have been given special, potentially, auditory and mental health damaging noise- generating exemptions! And the right to impose unwanted noise and interfere in other peoples lives.

Noise Destroys in More Ways than One –

Government Health and Human Resources Advice & Recommendations

A Government body, such as ‘The Health and Human Resources Department’, supplies the most authoritative medical information about auditory hazards within the community. Their employees are highly trained. Information brochures concerning auditory injury types and risks appear to be very accurate.

The following are quotes from an information sheet produced by the Government agency

Australian Hearing’. This leaflet, called Noise- It’s Murder on Your Ears (1) mainly discusses hearing damage resulting in hearing loss.

Importantly, internal protection varies from individual to individual . Some people have “tough” ears and some have “tender” ears. Unfortunately, the level of risk of hearing difficulties for the person beside you is no guide to your own risk.

The information sheet goes on to discuss the three aspects of hearing damage. Loss of sensitivity, loss of selectivity and tinnitus, and say that over exposure to ANY sound causes the ear to try to protect itself.

Protective structures in the ear may become fatigued, resulting in damage.

Another information sheet produced by Australian Hearing called Reducing the Noise outlines the following:

Noise can be annoying and damaging to your health.

Noise can come from many different sources- traffic, aircraft, neighbors etc.

1.The Source By far the best solution to any noise problem is the complete

removal of what ever it is that CREATES the noise in the first place”.

A sensible and intelligent approach.

  1. Noise-It’s Murder on Your Ears is an older publication no longer available through Australia Hearing

The same information source shows that sound above 75 dB risks auditory damage, above 85 dB can cause permanent damage. The sound of a dog barking close by can register at 89.7 dB.

Sound sensitivity and Hyperacusis is not mentioned, which is an unfortunate oversight. Audiologists are taught about this phenomenon but it seems to occupy a minor place on their agenda.

Until the present day, at-risk people who are exposed to chronically barking dogs have been viewed as the ‘offenders’ because they complain, while the dog owners are seen as the ‘victims’. This is ludicrous, considering that the noxious dog-owner’s ears and nerves are not being damaged in the same manner. The only thing harming the NDO is an affronted dent to their pride.

The receiver of the noise is expected by Govt Authorities and those with tougher ears, to “get used to it”, by the following methods, even though it is physiologically impossible. Wear earplugs; sleep on kitchen, bathroom or hallway floors at night; play loud music to drown out the sound; close all windows and doors; keep TV’s running; leave home; suffer ongoing auditory and mental health damage; pay to sell and relocate; buy special sound equipment to mask the noise; spend unnecessary time at the Doctors; take various medications; pay for desensitization treatments - and the list goes on.

From our experience, this is an entirely PREVENTABLE damage. Many of the victims did not have this sound specific Hyperacusis or mental distress before being repeatedly exposed to neighbors’ chronically barking dogs.

The result is loss of personal freedom, destruction of quality of life and daily auditory, and mental health-damaging assault.

Crime-Stoppers’ Definition of Assault:-

* The act of intentionally applying force to a person. (Sound is a force)

* The act of depriving a person of their liberty.

(The victim often becomes alienated and their life revolves around sound avoidance)

* Assault involves an element of force, whether actually applied, attempted or threatened directly or indirectly.

(Some owner deliberately either overtly or covertly encourages their dog to bark.

The barking is used as a form of intimidation and threat to warn people off, which can result in health damage to neighbors, their visitors and passers by.)

* Assault may include unintentional injury to a person where it is reasonable to think one’s actions could result in injury.

(The receiver of the noise assault is suffering personal injury. It is common for the owner to refuse to stop the dog when requested).

*The action of force must be intentional.

(The owner wants the dog to bark, is absent or doesn’t care)

*However, the slightest degree of force will suffice.

The receiver of the noise is having it forced into their home against their will, which is resulting in personal injury to their nervous systems, hearing and their mental and emotional health. A safe level of noise for one person cannot be extrapolated to another; clearly defined by the Government Health Department.

Medical understanding of this distressing disorder is still developing.

Much is still unknown. But exist it does and much information is available.

The following excerpts are from medical research sources.

Risk Factors for the Development or Presence of HYPERACUSIS.

Damage may occur suddenly. Air bag deployment, head injury, fireworks, gun fire, surgery, attending a rock concert or exposure to a sudden extremely loud sound.

Noise exposure is the most common cause - especially short impulse noise. eg. stereo drum beats, nail guns, barking dogs,

Others at risk are: Musicians; Children with Central Nervous System Processing or Pervasive Developmental Disorders; Autism; ADD; learning difficulties; TMJ dysfunction;

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Auto Immune Disease; whip-lash neck injuries; Migraine headaches; viral diseases; Chronic Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome; Chronic ear infections; Lymes Disease; Mennieres Disease; Oto-toxic chemical exposure (solvents, glues, petrochemicals, herbicides, pesticides); Oto-toxic pharmaceutical drugs - there is a long list. Many are known to cause tinnitus, therefore would increase the risk of hyperacusis.

From this list it would appear that this disorder will very likely be on the increase, especially in relation to the population’s generalized environmental chemical exposure and increased urban noise levels and the ever-increasing numbers of dogs.

The following is a quote from the ‘Dept Otorhinolaryhgology, Pontific Catholic University-Sorocaba, Sao Paulo,Brazil’.

Hyperacusis is mainly a consequence of the noise levels in the twenty first century, owing to dramatic changes in people’s life styles. Of every one-hundred people with otological complaints (e.g., tinnitus and hyperacusis), twenty are affected by hyperacusis. Because of its high incidence, this symptom has long been the subject of investigation. They go on to state that, in that study, women were more significantly affected than men.”

The following is a quote from ‘Scandinavian Audiology 1999;28(4):219-230 Anari, Axelsson, Eliasson, Magnusson:-

Hypersensitivity to sound - questionnaire data, audiometry, and classification

One-hundred people with hypersensitivity to sound were tested and questioned. It was found that hyperacusis strikes younger people than tinnitus; is not related strongly to noise induced hearing loss, and 86% also suffer from tinnitus. Sounds are painful and exposure can make the condition worse for some. Headaches are common. Usually normal hearing is present or slight high frequency loss. Tolerence levels for pure tone is less than 90dB. A careful taking of case history is advised”.

The following is a quote from information on a paper by ‘American Speech-Language Hearing Assn’ (ASHA):-

All aspects of hyperacusis need future research. There appears to be many causes for hyperacusis. The physiological and psychological factors need to be determined as causing or contributing to the disorder . New treatments need to be discovered, and the present treatments need to be placed on a scientific basis. At the present time hyperacusis sufferers are receiving treatments with the hope that help will be obtained, and permanent damage will not result to their auditory systems”.

(One could also add environmental factors).

Hyperacusis is very common amongst tinnitus patients (20-60%).

(Jastebrov 2001 Otology & Neuro-Otology)

A Polish survey found 15.2% of the general population of 10,349 people to report increased sensitivity to sound.

( Fabijanska A 1999)

M M Jastreboff, Ph.D., Associate Professor and P J Jastreboff, Ph.D., Sc.D, Professor, Depts Oto Neurology and Physiology are considered world authorities on this condition.

They state. “ In the majority of cases, the etiology of Hyperacusis is unknown. Hyperacusis has been linked to sound exposure (particularly short, impulse noise), head injuries, stress, and medications.

Decreased sound tolerance can exist as an independent medical diagnosis, or may be associated with more complex problems”.

While there is no clearly accepted ‘consensus’ method for evaluation of decreased sound tolerance , there appears to be general agreement that loudness discomfort levels (LDLs ) provide a reasonable estimation of the problem”.

Normative data is not uniform, and there is substantial individual variability (even when using identical methodologies to obtain and measure LDLs)”.

Above all, the general recognition of decreased sound tolerance, as a problem requiring attention and proper treatment, should be considered a PRIORITY by ‘hearing’ professionals”.

Their references:-

1. Anari M, Axelsson A, Elies W, Magnussen L.

Hypersensitivity to sound - Questionnaire Data, Audiometry and Classification.

Scand Audiol 1999; 28(4):219-230

2 Cox RM,Alexander GC,Taylor IM, Gray GA. The Countour Test of Loudness perception. Ear.

These authorities go on to state “ Quote” Our approach to decreased sound tolerance is based on neurophysiology. We attempt to recognize neuronal systems which may be involved in decreased sound tolerence including the peripheral and central auditory systems, the limbic and the autonomic nervous systems. Consequently we propose the following specific definition.

Hyperacusis can be defined as an abnormally strong reaction to sound occurring within the auditory pathways. At the behavioural level, it is manifested by a patient experiencing physical discomfort as a result of exposure to sound (quiet, medium or loud). The same sound would not evoke a similar reaction to an average listener . The strength of the reaction is controlled by the physical characteristics of the sound, e.g., its spectrum and intensity. “Unquote”

On the 15 Oct 005 on the Australian ABC Science Show an interview with J Ashmore, Proffessor of Biophysics University College. London Ear Institute, validated that three quarters of the hair cells within the ear act as amplifiers, which have a very important role in hearing. He stated that the inner ear is very fragile and damage is accumulative. A combination of loud sounds for shorter periods , or not so loud sounds over slightly longer periods damages hearing.

Considering the thousands of barking complaints that pour into Councils each year from distressed citizens, it seems clear that the physicle characteristics , spectrum and intensity of the unique sound of barking dogs is seriously damaging to auditory, nervous and mental health.

People affected by the damaging sound are considered frivolous vexatious trouble makers. Less affected neighbours with tougher ears or degrees of deafness are used as a benchmark to invalidate their complaints.

Proffessor M Halmagyi at the Hearing and Balance Clinic at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (ABC Health report. Sept 26 005) discussed the importance of the thickness of the bony casing between the top of the inner ear and the brain which is a very delicate vibration sensor. He stated that in people there is a big variety of the thickness of the bony roof and it may be that in some people it is already very thin and over years it gets thinner. The thickness of the bony roof affects the sensitivity to sound. A thick bony roofing is protective and reduces sensitivity to sound.

From these medical exerts it seems clear that tolerance to the sound of barking dogs is predetermined by our genetic makeup and exposure to various environmental factors. One cannot possibly order oneself to not be affected by a sound. The fact that so many complaints are received by Councils demonstrates the EPA Guidelines set for public exposure are faulty and damaging far too many people.

The Consequences and Injustice of Misdiagnosis among Professionals.

Another Specialist stated,

It has been my experience that individuals bring their concerns to their physicians and are mostly routed to the mental/emotional health providers for therapy. Once in a while an audiologist will conduct a hearing test, but, as most of these cases exhibit perfectly normal hearing, this avenue closes”.

The vast majority of patients who have contacted me so far have seen psychiatrists who attempt to diagnose an emotional disorder and most of the patients are then prescribed various chemicals such as anti-obsessive drugs, anti depressants, ant anxiety drugs, or other types of psychotropic medications. Most of these medications have negative side effects. Emotional reactions are closely related to the syndrome. It is fairly well known that most people with hyperacusis will often develop secondary psychological overlay conditions such as hysteria, anxiety, panic disorders, paranoia, and depression”.

Personally, I have observed these symptoms in patients and found most of them to be rational solutions to an irrational condition. The withdrawal from society, the use of ear plugs to try to prevent exposure, the isolation from the annoying trigger sounds, and the use of sound as a masking attempt, are signs of an intelligent sentient being attempting to structure their universe”.

Thank goodness for those few compassionate, intelligent specialists who recognize this problem for what it is. This description certainly applies to every sufferer who has ever lodged a barking dog complaint, and to those who suffer in silence. If the specialists find this type of damage difficult to define, how does one imagine it might be for a non medically trained private citizen who tries to articulate the effects it is having on their health. It is almost impossible.

It is time that the public are made aware of this distressing auditory disorder. Why should this form of auditory neuronal damage be so ‘hidden’, causing people to suffer immeasurably, due to lack of information or recognition? Sufferers have routinely been invalidated and ridiculed.

How could Government Departments be so out of touch with each other?

How many children have this problem and have no way of articulating their distress?

How many arguments erupt within families and work environments over noise and volume control when few even know that hyperacusis exists?

How many people have their quality of life destroyed and live lives of twenty-four hour long, year after year dread at being exposed to the next dog barking shock-wave that will jolt through their ears and head. Deafness would almost be preferable.

Their risk of also developing tinnitus, increases by the month.

People are not invalidated or ridiculed for having other types of hearing disturbances.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that, of the thousands of complaints that pour into Councils across Australia each year, the majority of those complainants are suffering from some degree of sound specific Hyperacusis with auditory, neuronal and mental health damage brought on or exacerbated by neighbourhood noxious barking dogs. It is speculative and quite possible that the NDOs hearing could be suffering progressive damage towards the deafness end of the scale.

To the Hyperacusis at risk person; If the sound is not aggravating or damaging, one does not continue to notice the sound. One adapts to the sound.

(Source Documents available on request).

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People who have never suffered through extensive exposure to chronic barking often find it difficult to understand why it should be such an incredibly upsetting, debilitating ordeal. This section tells you why that is, beginning with a discussion of how our bodies react to exposure to chronic noise.
The Physiology of the Upset Victim see for the rest of the article.

The Autonomic Nervous System & the Endocrine System
The organs of the body that are beyond our conscious control, like those listed above, together with the nerve cells that connect them, are known as the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
Notice that when you hear the sharp report of a barking dog, it gives you a start. Physically you feel yourself give a little jump and you experience a sudden sense of tension. That feeling is the autonomic nervous system speeding up the inner workings of your body. As the barking continues on, the neurons continue firing and you become increasingly tense.
When a dog barks, he creates sound waves. Sound waves are real physical entities that have a real physical effect on our bodies. We can't see them, but they are there and they carry the output of the barking dog to the sensory hair cells of our ears, which then carry the report of the sound into our brains. The brain, in turn, stimulates the ANS, which makes us feel tense.
Hormones are chemicals manufactured within our bodies. Under certain conditions, those hormones are released into our blood streams by our body's various glands. Different hormones do different things. They regulate our growth, our metabolism, our sexual desires and our sense of well being and distress. While the ANS makes us feel tense, it is the endocrine system that makes us feel anxious when we are in close proximity to a barking dog. That's not surprising really. The hormonal (endocrine) system is regulated by a primitive part of the human brain that seems to respond instantly to the primitive threats and messages of desperation that are implicit in the voice of a chronically barking dog. That's part of why barking drives people wild.
To really appreciate the impact that chronic barking has on your autonomic and endocrine systems and, thus, your emotional state, you must also factor-in the length of time required for our bodies to return to normal after an acoustic shock like that which we receive when a nearby dog releases a loud, sudden, percussive burst of barking. If it happens only once, you may return to normal in a matter of seconds. However, with each additional episode of barking, your systems fire-up more quickly, and it takes a little longer to return to baseline. If it happens frequently enough, you will still be wound-up from the last outburst when the next one hits, with the result that you will be forever tense, and at no point will you ever be able to become truly relaxed in your own home.
Some people have an autonomic nervous system that works like greased lightening, while others have a relatively sluggish function of the ANS. The more readily your ANS fires up, the faster your endocrine system will kick in, and the longer it will take your body to return to a relaxed state after you are exposed to a flurry of barking.