Pain is your body’s way of delivering information. It’s not a very enjoyable method but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that significant ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected 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. 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 in a particular frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who suffer from it. Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
Hyperacusis is frequently associated with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You will notice 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.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why treatment is so essential. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be quite variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device known as 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 select wavelengths of sounds. So those unpleasant frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis incident. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech approach. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering using earplugs.
One of the most in-depth approaches to managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Generally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Approaches that are less prevalent
Less prevalent strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
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 developed. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.