One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly enjoyable approach but it can be effective. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is taking place 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 people will feel pain from low volume sounds too. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds within a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is frequently associated with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Everybody else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why treatment is so essential. There are a variety of 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 prevalent options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out certain wavelengths. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less sophisticated approach to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis event. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech method. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
One of the most comprehensive methods of managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you respond to particular types of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but generally has a positive success rate.
Approaches that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent approaches for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis tends to differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.