Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s not a very enjoyable approach but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for excessively 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 activated by a particular set of sounds (typically sounds within a range of frequencies). Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they are.
nobody’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, though it is frequently related to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological concerns). There’s a significant degree of individual variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. 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 it’s so essential 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 popular options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis incident. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. Your overall hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you react to certain kinds of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your commitment but generally has a positive rate of success.
Strategies that are less common
There are also some less common approaches for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.