One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a really enjoyable one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really 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 people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is known 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.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds in a particular frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they are.
No one’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, although it’s frequently linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological issues). There’s a significant degree of personal variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound really loud to you.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- 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).
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and discomfort will be.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so essential to get treatment. There are various treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
One of the most frequently deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those unpleasant frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. 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. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech approach. There’s some evidence to suggest 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.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change how you respond to certain types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Generally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Approaches that are less common
There are also some less common approaches for treating hyperacusis, such as 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 person and the specialist).
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.