One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very 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 steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, despite their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from low volume sounds too. This condition is referred to by experts 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.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
nobody’s quite sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s frequently linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological issues). There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- You may also experience dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- 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).
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. 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 treatment is so crucial. There are various treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you pick 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. This is a device that can cancel out specific frequencies. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s certainly 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 out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change the way you respond to certain types of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but generally has a positive success rate.
Less prevalent solutions
There are also some less prevalent strategies for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. Both of these approaches have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.