Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s not a very fun method but it can be beneficial. When your ears start to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone near you, you know damage is happening and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who suffer from it. Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is commonly connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You may also experience dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- 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 notice a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. You’ll want to come in and talk 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.
One of the most commonly implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it may sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out specific wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less sophisticated strategy to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech strategy. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth methods of managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change the way you respond to certain types of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but generally has a positive success rate.
Less common methods
There are also some less prevalent strategies for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.