What 14-year-old Cindy Redmond calls her "living nightmare" started a year ago at a friend's kitchen table in Delaware. Her friend's stepfather, annoyed that he had to ask Cindy twice to get off her phone, unleashed an air horn into her ears. Nothing has been the same for Cindy since, People reports in a heartbreaking look at a rare hearing disorder called hyperacusis. “Overexposure to sound does not always lead to conventional hearing loss,” one expert says. In Cindy's case, it led to sounds that are too loud and near constant pain. “When I hear a noise, I feel like I’m being stabbed in the ear," Cindy writes on her fundraising page. She also has a constant burning sensation in her ears. Treatment hasn't worked for Cindy, and there is no cure for hyperacusis, also known as noise-induced pain.
Noises—and pain—lurk everywhere. Cindy has been unable to return to school; she can't go to the store; and even her home is fraught with the possibility of dog barks and clanging pots. A recent attempt to hang out with friends ended when one of the girls squealed. “Cindy started sobbing from the pain,” her mother, Laurie Redmond, says. “Her friends insisted she was faking." Redmond adds: "She cries herself to sleep. My heart breaks for her.” Cindy wears earplugs or protective earmuffs like you see on airport tarmacs, but those make it hard for her to communicate and don't block out sounds completely. Redmond says they need to find a cure to give her daughter a shot at a normal life. "I worry that she has no friends," Redmond says. "I don’t know how she’s going to finish high school. I have no idea what her future holds.” (Read more hearing stories.)