One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective method though not a really enjoyable 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 steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, despite their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from low volume sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical term 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. Usually sounds within a particular frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will often sound very loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
nobody’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, though it’s often linked to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some instances, neurological issues). When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You will notice a certain sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound very loud to you.
- You might experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You may also experience dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and pain will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and consult with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be quite variable). The most popular options include the following.
One of the most commonly used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specified wavelengths. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech method. Your overall hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
One of the most thorough methods of managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change the way you react to specific types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to dismiss sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less prevalent strategies
Less prevalent approaches, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.