Pain is your body’s method of giving you information. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is occurring and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from low volume sounds too. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction 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.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a distinct frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is commonly associated with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You might notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so important. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most frequently implemented 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 certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis episode. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech approach. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may get worse by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
One of the most comprehensive approaches to treating hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you react to certain types of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This process depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Approaches that are less common
There are also some less common strategies for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. Both of these strategies have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge 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.