Pain is your body’s way of supplying information. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds too. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical term for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most people with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a specific set of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is commonly linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might also have dizziness and difficulty 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 terrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most common options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out specified wavelengths. These devices, then, can selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are undoubtedly some drawbacks to this low tech method. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re considering using earplugs.
An strategy, known as 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 the way you react to certain kinds of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less common solutions
Less common methods, 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
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.