Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s an effective method though not a very enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is occurring and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term 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. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a certain set of sounds (typically sounds within a range of frequencies). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
nobody’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, though it is often associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological issues). There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a terrible 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 pick one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less sophisticated approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. There’s some research that suggests that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off 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 types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less prevalent methods
There are also some less common methods for managing hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed results, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding a strategy that’s best for you.