One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly enjoyable method but it can be effective. When your ears begin 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 about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for excessively sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds within a particular frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
No one’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s frequently related to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some situations, neurological concerns). When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You will hear a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a terrible headache and ringing ears whenever 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. The most popular options include the following.
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out certain wavelengths. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
One of the most in-depth 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 the way you react to particular kinds of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your dedication but generally has a positive success rate.
Less prevalent methods
There are also some less prevalent strategies for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. 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).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.