One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a really enjoyable one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone near you, you know damage is taking place and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, despite their minimal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition 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. Usually sounds within a particular frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it is often linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have 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 an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why treatment is so important. You’ll want to come in and consult with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most common 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 certain wavelengths of sounds. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you respond to certain types of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Generally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Methods that are less common
There are also some less common strategies for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed results, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be created. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.