Pain is your body’s method of giving you information. It’s an effective method though not a very enjoyable one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is happening and you can take measures 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 quiet sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term 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 people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a certain group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s often associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some cases, neurological issues). With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of individual variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- After you hear the initial sound, you may have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- Everybody else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). The most popular 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 wavelengths. These devices, then, have the ability to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the offending sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis incident. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech strategy. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
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 counseling to try to change how you respond to certain types of sounds. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your dedication but generally has a positive rate of success.
Methods that are less prevalent
There are also some less common methods for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.