One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a really enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that significant ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, in spite of their minimal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds within a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound really loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
No one’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some situations, neurological issues). With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- You may also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide assortment 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 whenever you go out.
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 quite variable). The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis episode. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech approach. 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 considering wearing earplugs.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll try to change how you respond to certain types of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Methods that are less common
There are also some less common methods for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have met with mixed success.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis tends to vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.