One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly enjoyable method but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing near gets too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is occurring and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for about 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a 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.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a certain group of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Typically, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
nobody’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s often linked to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- The louder the sound is, the more intense your response and discomfort will be.
- You may experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so important. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. The most popular options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, have the ability to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. 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 general approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no possibility of a hyperacusis incident. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech method. Your overall hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
One of the most in-depth approaches to managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change the way you react to certain types of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less common methods
Less common approaches, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as commonly 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, a specialized treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding a strategy that’s best for you.