One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a very pleasant one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain lets you know that major ear damage is occurring and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a specific set of sounds (typically sounds within a range of frequencies). Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
nobody’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often linked to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). There’s a significant degree of personal variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. The most common options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s certainly a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth methods of managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change the way you respond to specific kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your commitment but generally has a positive success rate.
Less prevalent approaches
There are also some less common strategies for managing hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have delivered mixed success.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis tends to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.