Pain is your body’s method of giving you information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be beneficial. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is taking place and you can take steps 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 known 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a specific set of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will often sound really loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s often related to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological issues). When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Everybody else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- You may experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You might also experience dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a terrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. 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). The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out certain frequencies. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same general approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis episode. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech method. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
One of the most thorough approaches to treating hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you respond to certain kinds of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Less common solutions
Less prevalent strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to treat hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.