One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s not a very enjoyable approach but it can be effective. When your ears start to feel the pain of a really 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, despite their minimal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from low volume sounds too. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a 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.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds in a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for people who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
No one’s really certain what causes hyperacusis, although it is often linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological issues). There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. You’ll want to come in and consult with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be quite variable). The most common options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out certain frequencies. These devices, then, have the ability to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this basic method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s certainly a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, give us a call 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 how you react to certain types of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Strategies that are less prevalent
Less prevalent strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to treat hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.