One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly fun method 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 taking place and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their minimal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. This condition is known by experts 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.
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 really loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability with the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- 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).
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. The most popular 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 specific wavelengths. These devices, then, have the ability 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!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech approach. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
One of the most comprehensive methods of managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less common solutions
Less common strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.