One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very pleasant one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But for around 8-10% of people, quiet sounds can be perceived as painfully loud, despite their measured decibel level. This affliction is referred to 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
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Usually, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
No one’s really certain what causes hyperacusis, though it’s frequently related to tinnitus or other hearing problems (and, in some situations, neurological concerns). With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You will hear a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem very loud to you.
- You may also have dizziness and difficulty keeping your balance.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your specific situation and we can help you choose one that’s best for you. Here are some of the most common options:
One of the most frequently used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is technology that can cancel out specific frequencies. These devices, then, have the ability to selectively mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less sophisticated approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s definitely a low-tech strategy, and there are some drawbacks. Your overall hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re thinking about wearing earplugs.
One of the most comprehensive approaches to treating hyperacusis is called 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 disregard sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your commitment but generally has a positive rate of success.
Less common solutions
There are also some less prevalent strategies for treating hyperacusis, including medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have met with mixed results.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis tends to vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.