Pain is your body’s means of supplying information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be effective. 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 measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This condition is referred to by experts 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 people with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a certain group of sounds (typically sounds within a frequency range). 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 problems, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- 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).
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound very loud to you.
- You might also have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out certain frequencies. These devices, then, can selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less sophisticated strategy to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to specific kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive success rate.
Less prevalent approaches
There are also some less common methods for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
A big 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. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.