Pain is your body’s way of supplying information. It’s an effective strategy though not a very pleasant one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is happening and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their minimal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. This condition 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. Most of the time sounds within a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is commonly connected with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- You may also have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a terrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so essential to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). The most common options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis incident. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
One of the most thorough methods of managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change how you react to certain types of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your dedication to the process.
Methods that are less common
There are also some less prevalent approaches for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis will vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding a strategy that’s best for you.