One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly enjoyable approach but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that severe ear damage is occurring and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term 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. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a particular set of sounds (typically sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is frequently linked to tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- 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).
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. 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 essential to get treatment. There are various treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most common options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out certain frequencies. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change the way you respond to specific types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Generally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less common strategies
Less common strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed results, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding a strategy that’s best for you.