One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a really enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that severe ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But, in spite of their minimal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds too. This condition is known by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical term 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. Usually sounds in a particular frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound really loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
nobody’s really certain what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological concerns). With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You will notice a specific sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
- 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).
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and pain will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. 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 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. The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it may sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is stopped, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis event. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech method. 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. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
One of the most thorough approaches to treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive rate of success.
Strategies that are less prevalent
Less common methods, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.