Pain is your body’s means of supplying information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be effective. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is taking place and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a particular group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is commonly linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You will hear a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem exceptionally loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
- You might notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You might also have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. There are various treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they make it to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the offending sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis incident. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change how you react to certain types of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less common approaches
Less common strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.