One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a really pleasant one. When your ears start to feel the pain of a really 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 perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for excessively sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds within a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
- You will hear a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound really loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- You may 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 be like a minefield. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
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 your best option (this all tends to be quite variable). The most common options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. While it might sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis event. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may 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, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Generally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Less common approaches
Less prevalent approaches, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency 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.