One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly enjoyable approach but it can be beneficial. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is happening and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, despite their minimal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a certain set of sounds (usually sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
No one’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s often associated with tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some situations, neurological issues). When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What type of response is typical for hyperacusis?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You might also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide range of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a pleasant 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 a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it might sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same basic approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis incident. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some research that suggests that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
One of the most thorough methods of treating hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to specific kinds of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Generally, this approach has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Methods that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent approaches for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
A big difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be created. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.