Pain is your body’s means of supplying information. It’s an effective method though not a very pleasant one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that significant ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What type of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- You may also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- You might experience 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.
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why treatment is so essential. There are various treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out specific wavelengths of sounds. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most thorough approaches to managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you react to certain types of sounds. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Less common approaches
There are also some less prevalent methods for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. 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 differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be created. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.