Pain is your body’s method of giving you information. It’s an effective strategy though not a really enjoyable one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is occurring and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for excessively sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a particular set of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is commonly connected with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- 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 have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
- Your response and discomfort 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.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be 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 it’s so essential to get treatment. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, are able to selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode 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 blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis event. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. Your overall hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you respond to particular kinds of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Methods that are less common
Less common approaches, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to treat hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed results.
A huge difference can come from treatment
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.