Photo/IllutrationThe rabbit logo on the headphone says, “I am blocking sounds I am sensitive to.” (Provided by Isshi Takuma)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Don't be too quick to judge that someone wearing headphones or earmuffs must be listening to music or is being antisocial.

Quite the reverse could be true. It may be that the individual is intentionally blocking out noise because of a hearing disorder called hyperacusis, which is an acute sensitivity to certain everyday sounds.

Hyperacusis is not something that many people are aware of, and Tatsuo Ishii, president of Osaka-based sign maker Ishii Mark, is trying to change that by promoting the use of a rabbit logo that can be affixed to headphones and earmuffs to denote the wearer suffers from the condition and cannot tolerate the noise around them.

Ishii became interested in the issue after he came across a story on Twitter of a parent whose son had developed hyperacusis.

The tweet, posted in September 2017, said the parent was told by a stranger to remove the son’s soundproof earmuffs so “he can talk with you instead of listening to music.” The tweet went on to call for greater awareness that earmuffs are used by some people who are particularly sensitive to certain sounds.

The comment was retweeted more than 97,000 times.

The logo, available in eight designs, shows a rabbit wearing an earmuff and noise-canceling headphone along with words such as, “I am blocking sounds I am sensitive to” and “I am very sensitive to certain sounds.”

The logo, which can be downloaded for free, has gone viral through social networking services. Images of items featuring the rabbit symbol, such as a tin badge and a card holder, have been posted on Twitter.

"I have received a much greater reaction than I expected," said Ishii. “I hope the logo spreads far and wide so that everyone will recognize it.”

While ear, nose and internal organ problems can cause hyperacusis, the condition is often associated with people with autistic spectrum, which is a type of developmental disorder, depression and higher brain dysfunction.

Isshi Takuma, 38, who writes about her developmental disorder on a blog and elsewhere, said she attached the rabbit logo on her headphones in spring 2018.

Takuma, who lives in Oita Prefecture, said that visiting commercial facilities is “especially unbearable” because the noise generated by air conditioning systems and other sources blow out her eardrums just like ordinary conversation, making it difficult for her to converse with others.

“Engulfed in a flood of noise, I feel as if my brain is worn out,” she said. “In the worst cases, I cannot get out of bed for three days after going to such a facility.”

Takuma got permission to use headphones at her workplace to drown out the noise. But some visitors to the office frowned when they saw her, as they assumed she was listening to music.

“I had to explain what hyperacusis is every time,” she said. “It was a taxing experience.”

Takuma said no one has complained about her headphones after she started sporting the rabbit logo.

“Hyperacusis can also be caused by acquired diseases, which means that anyone can develop the condition,” she said. “That is why I hope as many people as possible will learn about the condition and the logo.”