Pain is your body’s way of delivering information. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is happening and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This condition is known by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical term for excessively sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a specific set of sounds (usually sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
No one’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, although it is frequently related to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological concerns). There’s a significant degree of personal variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You will hear a specific sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound really loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). The most popular options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out specific wavelengths. These devices, then, have the ability to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art play on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis event. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech method. 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. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you react to particular types of sounds. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Approaches that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent approaches for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.