One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that major ear damage is occurring and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for overly 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 particular group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is commonly linked to tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a significant degree of personal variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound really loud to you.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and consult with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be quite variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are undoubtedly some drawbacks to this low tech strategy. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could worsen 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 comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change how you react to particular kinds of sounds. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less common solutions
Less prevalent strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed results.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis tends to differ from person to person, a specialized 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 best treatment for you.