One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very pleasant one. 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 about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived 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. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds within a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is frequently connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of individual variability.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You might notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and pain will be.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You will hear a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be quite variable). The most common options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. So those unpleasant frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less state-of-the-art approach to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis incident. There are undoubtedly some drawbacks to this low tech method. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
An strategy, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you react to particular kinds of sounds. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your dedication but usually has a positive success rate.
Less common approaches
There are also some less prevalent strategies for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. Both of these strategies have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis tends to vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.