Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s not a very fun method but it can be effective. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is taking place and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their minimal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. This affliction is referred to by experts 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.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a particular set of sounds (commonly sounds within a range of frequencies). Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
No one’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, though it is often linked to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a significant degree of individual variability.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and discomfort will be.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- You may also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. There are various treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out certain frequencies. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less sophisticated approach to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. Your overall hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
One of the most thorough approaches to managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive success rate.
Less common strategies
Less common methods, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
A huge 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. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.