Pain is your body’s method of supplying information. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that major ear damage is occurring and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds within a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is commonly connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You will hear a specific sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- You might also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can seem 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 an intense migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it might sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech method. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
One of the most thorough approaches to managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you respond to certain types of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Less common solutions
There are also some less prevalent methods for treating 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).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.