One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that severe ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds in a distinct frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Quiet noises will frequently sound extremely loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
nobody’s really certain what causes hyperacusis, though it’s frequently linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological issues). When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You will hear a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound very 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).
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a wonderful night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why treatment is so important. You’ll want to come in and consult with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be quite variable). Here are some of the most common options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech method. 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. If you’re considering using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth approaches to treating hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you respond to specific kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your dedication but generally has a positive rate of success.
Less common approaches
There are also some less prevalent strategies for managing hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have delivered mixed results.
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.