Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s not a very enjoyable method but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Usually sounds in a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
nobody’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, though it is often related to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological issues). There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and pain will be.
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range 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 important 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 rather variable). The most common options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out certain frequencies. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
One of the most in-depth approaches to managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Generally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Strategies that are less common
There are also some less prevalent approaches for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly used (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 developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.