GT Academy champion and Bathurst 12 Hour winner Wolfgang Reip has spoken for the first time about his battle with a debilitating hearing disorder, as he seeks to raise funds for research into the condition.
Reip posted on Facebook about the condition, called hyperacusis. Defined as a heightened sensitivity to sounds, hyperacusis essentially amplifies noises. While that might sound like a superhero ability, the reality is that even sounds at a normal volume induce pain — increasing as the decibels increase.
Typically, hyperacusis develops following repeated exposure to extremely loud noises, although it’s also associated with head injuries and diseases and disorders that can affect the many delicate internal parts of the ear. It’s something that has no real treatment path at this time, and is poorly understood as a condition.
As you might imagine, Reip’s time behind the wheel is the culprit in his case. He states in his Facebook post that he experienced his first “sound trauma” during 2014, a season in which he was racing for Nissan in British GT, the Blancpain Endurance Series, Super GT, and the Nurburgring Endurance Series. It wasn’t bad at first, but it’s continued to get worse ever since.
In Reip’s case, hyperacusis has halted his racing career, which has included a landmark first all-electric lap of Le Mans in the Nissan ZEOD. He notes that he’s not been on a race track in two years, and doesn’t even participate in virtual motorsport due to the sounds being simply too loud to bear.
As with many other presentations of hyperacusis, Reip also has tinnitus — buzzing or ringing in the ears. Around 10% of people have tinnitus, again something that can be caused by exposure to loud sounds, but for someone who finds even faint sounds to be painfully loud it’s more than the regular annoyance. Normal treatments include sound therapy, which is something obviously not appropriate with hyperacusis.
Reip also describes a number of regular, everyday activities that his hyperacusis makes almost impossible, ranging from taking public transport to showering, without ear protection.
In addition to describing the issues with day-to-day life with the condition, Reip’s post also serves as a fundraiser for research into the treatment of hyperacusis, with US-based charity Hyperacusis Research Limited as the beneficiary.
Reip has set a target of €3,000, and at time of writing the fundraiser is 75% of the way there. You can donate too on a special Facebook page for the fundraiser.
As for prevention, Reip has a simple message: “Protect your ears… Once they are ruined, there is no turning back.”
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