One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy 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 around 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. 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. Usually sounds in a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who suffer from it. Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is commonly associated with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and discomfort will be.
- 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).
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially 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 important. You’ll want to come in and consult with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). The most popular options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some research that suggests 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.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you respond to certain types of sounds. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your dedication but usually has a positive success rate.
Strategies that are less common
There are also some less common approaches for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed results.
A big 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. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.