Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s an effective method though not a very pleasant one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain lets you know that severe ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for excessively 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. Usually sounds within a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is frequently connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of individual variability.
What type of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Everybody else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
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 a terrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most commonly used 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 certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively mask 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 attack.
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some drawbacks. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
One of the most thorough approaches to treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to certain kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This process depends on your commitment but generally has a positive rate of success.
Approaches that are less common
There are also some less common strategies for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be created. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.