One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that severe ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for excessively sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a particular set of sounds (usually sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and pain will be.
- You might also experience dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. You never know when a wonderful night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. There are various treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most common options include the following.
One of the most frequently deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art play on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most thorough methods of treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you react to certain types of sounds. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your dedication but generally has a positive rate of success.
Less common approaches
Less prevalent strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. These approaches are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed success.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis will 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 determining an approach that’s best for you.