One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a really pleasant one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is occurring and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This condition is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds within a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Quiet noises will frequently sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound exceptionally loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a wonderful night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. There are a variety of 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 deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specific frequencies. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art take on the same basic approach: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s certainly a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. 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 thinking about wearing earplugs.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to certain types of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Generally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Approaches that are less common
There are also some less prevalent approaches for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have delivered mixed success.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis will differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. Successfully treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.