One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a very pleasant one. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near 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, in spite of their measured decibel level. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a particular group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is commonly associated with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a significant degree of individual variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- You will hear a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound really loud to you.
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. You never know when a wonderful 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 crucial. There are various treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
One of the most commonly implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out specific wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art play on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech approach, and there are some drawbacks. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Less prevalent solutions
Less common approaches, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed results, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.