A 14-year-old who was on her cellphone was asked by her friend’s stepfather to hang up the phone, but she didn’t listen.
Then, inexplicably, he blasted her with an airhorn—changing Cindy Redmond’s life.
An air horn can produce 130 decibels or more, which is loud enough to cause ear damage.
“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, according to the Daily Mail.
The next day, Cindy, of Delaware, said she felt strange while in class, according to People magazine. Cindy then went home sick after her teacher’s voice seemed too loud.
Cindy told People that she suffers from hyperacusis, which is a rare hearing disorder that causes constant pressure and pain. A sound like clinking ice cubes “feels like someone is stabbing me in my ears,” she told the magazine in December.
Cindy now has to stay in quiet isolation at her home, where she is home-schooled, according to the Mail.
If she’s exposed to prolonged noise, it could take her two days to recover.
“For her 14th birthday she wanted to go to the aquarium. Twenty minutes in she was sobbing from the pain,” said Laurie, her mother, who added that she’s afraid the girl won’t be able to live a normal life due to an inability to be around people.
“We can’t avoid babies,” Laurie said, “Everyone smiles and says ‘aw’ and her face crumples.”
Cindy’s home is usually quiet, but even the noise of her dog barking or pots clanging can trigger her symptoms.
“Having hyperacusis is like walking into a bear’s cave,” Cindy explained. “You don’t know what noise is coming your way next. It’s a living nightmare.”
“Overexposure to sound does not always lead to conventional hearing loss,” said M. Charles Liberman, who is an otology professor at Harvard Medical School, according to People.
“It’s a sensation that most of us have rarely, if ever, experienced,” Liberman noted. According to the latest research, one culprit may be pain-sensing nerve fibers deep within the inner ear.
Hyperacusis is a poorly studied condition.
“Hyperacusis needs attention,” said Laurie, saying the family never heard of the condition until the girl’s injury. “We need a cure so Cindy can live a normal teenager’s life.”
Her family set up a webpage, Cure4Cindy.org, to help raise awareness about the condition
“She copes as best she can with earplugs and earmuffs, which keep the pain from worsening, though ear protection makes it hard for her to hear and communicate,” it says.