One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very pleasant one. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is taking place and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds too. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name 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. Most people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a particular group of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will frequently sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
No one’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s often related to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological issues). There’s a significant degree of individual variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You might notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide variety 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 treatment is so essential. There are various treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most common options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out specified frequencies. These devices, then, have the ability to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Less prevalent strategies
There are also some less common methods for treating hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.