One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be effective. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is taking place and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction 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. Usually sounds in a particular frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
No one’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, although it is frequently linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide range of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. There are various treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most popular 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 specific wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
One of the most thorough methods of managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you respond to particular kinds of sounds. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your dedication but generally has a positive success rate.
Less common methods
Less prevalent methods, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis tends to vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.