One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a really pleasant one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very 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 marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from low volume sounds too. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical label 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
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds in a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for people who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, although it’s frequently linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological issues). There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most cases, 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.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
- Everyone else will think a certain sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you have hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. You never know when a lovely 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 speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be quite variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most commonly implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specific wavelengths. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech approach. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering using earplugs.
An strategy, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this approach has a good success rate but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Approaches that are less prevalent
Less common strategies, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed results, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (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 one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the best treatment for you.