Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s not a very fun method but it can be beneficial. When your ears start 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 perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical term for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds within a particular frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s frequently related to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological concerns). There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so important 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 common options include the following.
One of the most frequently used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech method. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change the way you respond to specific kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less prevalent methods
There are also some less common approaches for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have met with mixed success.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis will vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.