Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s not a very enjoyable approach but it can be effective. When your ears start 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. This is the medical term 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Usually sounds within a distinct frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
No one’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, though it is often linked to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some instances, neurological issues). With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also experience dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a lovely 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 important. There are a variety of 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 deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out certain frequencies. These devices, then, are able to selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this basic method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech strategy. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change the way you react to certain types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your dedication but generally has a positive success rate.
Strategies that are less common
Less prevalent approaches, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.