Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that major ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re wise) 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. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction 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. Most of the time sounds in a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
No one’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often linked to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some situations, neurological issues). There’s a significant degree of individual variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You may experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so essential to get treatment. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. 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. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech approach. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most thorough methods of treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to certain types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive rate of success.
Strategies that are less common
Less common strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have delivered mixed success.
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis will vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.