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 really loud megaphone near 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 people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to 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.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a specific set of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is commonly linked to tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- You may experience 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 particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
- You may also experience dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and pain will be.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be quite variable). The most common options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
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 counseling to try to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your commitment but generally has a positive success rate.
Approaches that are less prevalent
Less prevalent methods, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.