One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very pleasant one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really 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, despite their minimal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds too. Hearing specialists refer to this condition 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.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Usually sounds within a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
Hyperacusis is often associated with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a significant degree of personal variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- 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).
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem exceptionally loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and pain will be.
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
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 quite variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. 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 triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis event. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
One of the most comprehensive approaches to managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change how you react to specific types of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your commitment but generally has a positive rate of success.
Less prevalent strategies
Less common methods, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. 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 has a tendency to vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.