One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. 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 next to you, you know damage is happening and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most people with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a certain group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is commonly associated with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
- You may experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. You never know when a lovely night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. 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). The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out specified wavelengths. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
An strategy, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change how you respond to certain kinds of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good success rate but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Less common methods
Less common strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.