Pain is your body’s way of delivering information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that major ear damage is occurring and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, despite their minimal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds too. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a particular group of sounds (usually sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will frequently sound really loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is often linked to tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What type of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and discomfort will be.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
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. Here are some of the most common options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out specified frequencies. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis episode. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech strategy. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you respond to certain types of sounds. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Generally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Approaches that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent approaches for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed results, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.