Pain is your body’s means of giving you information. It’s not a terribly fun method but it can be beneficial. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is occurring and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name 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. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a specific set of sounds (usually sounds within a frequency range). Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
Hyperacusis is often linked to tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and discomfort will be.
- After you hear the initial sound, you may experience pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
- You will hear a certain sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
- You might also have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with an awful headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). The most common options include the following.
One of the most frequently implemented treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out certain wavelengths. So those offensive frequencies can be eliminated before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
Earplugs are a less state-of-the-art play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s certainly a low-tech approach, and there are some disadvantages. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, could worsen by using this approach, according to some evidence. If you’re considering using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most comprehensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you react to certain types of sounds. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less prevalent solutions
Less prevalent methods, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.