One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a really pleasant one. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes 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 about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction 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.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds in a particular frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
Hyperacusis is frequently associated with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- You may experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide range 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 it’s so important to get treatment. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most common options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out specific frequencies. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech method. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. 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 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 disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Less common approaches
There are also some less common methods for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.