One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is occurring and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for excessively sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
No one’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological concerns). There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- After you hear the initial sound, you may have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
- You will hear a specific sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a terrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why treatment is so important. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most common options:
One of the most frequently used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out certain frequencies. These devices, then, can selectively hide 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.
A less sophisticated strategy to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. Your overall hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
An strategy, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change how you respond to certain kinds of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. Generally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Approaches that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent approaches for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, a unique 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 finding the best treatment for you.