Pain is your body’s method of delivering information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that severe ear damage is occurring and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the 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.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds in a particular frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it is often associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological issues). With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You may also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, particularly when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. You never know when a lovely night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be quite variable). The most common options include the following.
One of the most frequently deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specified frequencies. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they make it to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the offending sound!
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this basic method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech approach. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth methods of treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change how you respond to certain kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive rate of success.
Strategies that are less prevalent
Less common approaches, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These approaches are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed results.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.