Pain is your body’s method of delivering information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that significant ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a certain set of sounds (typically sounds within a frequency range). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is frequently associated with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, though 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’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You may also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- 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).
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a lovely 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 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 called 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, 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.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s certainly a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Generally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Less prevalent solutions
Less prevalent strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.