Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be beneficial. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is occurring and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a certain set of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is often linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can seem 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 it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). The most common options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out specific wavelengths. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less state-of-the-art approach to this basic method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech method. There’s some research that suggests 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 thinking about using earplugs.
One of the most comprehensive approaches to treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to certain kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. Generally, this approach has a good success rate but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less common solutions
Less prevalent methods, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.