One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a very enjoyable method but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that major ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical term for excessively 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 brought about by a certain group of sounds (commonly sounds within a range of frequencies). Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it is frequently linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological issues). When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You may also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- You might experience 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 discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. You’ll want to come in and speak 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:
One of the most frequently deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the offending 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 episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech approach. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact 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 combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less common strategies
Less common strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have met with mixed success.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.