Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be effective. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is happening and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a certain group of sounds (usually sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is frequently linked to tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You may also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound very loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears anytime 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. The most common options include the following.
One of the most frequently used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, are able to selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same basic approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis episode. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to certain types of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your dedication but generally has a positive rate of success.
Less prevalent methods
There are also some less prevalent methods for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.