One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a really enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that severe ear damage is occurring and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds too. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds in a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound really loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is often linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and pain will be.
- 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).
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful 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. 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), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out specific wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they make it 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 general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. There’s some research that suggests that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth approaches to treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change the way you react to specific types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Less common methods
Less prevalent approaches, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.