One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a very pleasant one. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very 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, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds too. 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a certain set of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
No one’s really certain what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often associated with tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological issues). When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem exceptionally loud to you.
- 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).
- You may also have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so essential to get treatment. There are various treatments available depending on your specific 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 perfect for Halloween (sorry), in reality, 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. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same basic approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s certainly a low-tech approach, 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 off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change the way you react to specific kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your commitment but generally has a positive success rate.
Methods that are less prevalent
There are also some less common strategies for managing hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.