Pain is your body’s method of giving you information. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that major ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction 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.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Most of the time sounds in a specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
Hyperacusis is often associated with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What type of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- You might also have dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound very loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
Treatments for hyperacusis
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. 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 popular options include the following.
One of the most frequently deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out specified wavelengths. These devices, then, are able to selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most in-depth methods of treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you respond to certain kinds of sounds. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Less prevalent approaches
There are also some less common approaches for managing hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. Both of these strategies have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be created. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.