Pain is your body’s method of supplying information. It’s an effective method though not a really enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that significant ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from low volume sounds too. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term 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 people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a particular group of sounds (typically sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is commonly connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. When it comes to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- Everyone else will think a certain 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.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, particularly when your ears are very sensitive to a wide variety of frequencies. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why treatment is so essential. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be quite variable). The most common options include the following.
One of the most commonly implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out select wavelengths of sounds. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack 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 stopped, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis episode. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech method. There’s some research that suggests that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, contact us for a consultation.
An strategy, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change how you respond to certain types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. The concept 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.
Strategies that are less common
There are also some less prevalent strategies for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these strategies have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as frequently used (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, an individual treatment plan can be developed. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.