Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s an effective method though not a really enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain lets you know that major ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a specific set of sounds (typically sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will frequently sound really loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is frequently linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You might notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- You will hear a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. You never know when a lovely night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why it’s so essential to get treatment. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out certain frequencies. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth methods of treating hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Generally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Strategies that are less common
Less prevalent methods, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.