One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a really enjoyable one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is occurring and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds within a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s frequently associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological issues). With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- You will notice a specific sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
- You might also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. 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 commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some research that suggests that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change how you react to specific kinds of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your commitment but usually has a positive success rate.
Approaches that are less common
There are also some less prevalent approaches for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
A big difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.