One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s not a very enjoyable method but it can be effective. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is occurring and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound really loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is frequently linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Everybody else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. 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 treatment is so essential. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out specific frequencies. These devices, then, can selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less sophisticated approach to this basic method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, 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 in-depth methods of managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to specific types of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Strategies that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent methods for managing hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
Treatment makes a big difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.