One way your body provides information to you is through pain response. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that significant ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But, despite their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from low volume sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical term for excessively 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 within a distinct frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will frequently sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is commonly connected with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You will hear a specific sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem really loud to you.
- You might notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. You never know when a lovely night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and an intense migraine.
That’s why treatment is so crucial. 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). Here are some of the most common options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out specified wavelengths. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less state-of-the-art approach to this basic method is earplugs: if all sound is blocked, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. It’s definitely a low-tech approach, and there are some drawbacks. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over the long run, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further off and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most comprehensive approaches to treating hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you respond to particular types of sounds. The idea is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less prevalent solutions
Less common approaches, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed success.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be developed. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding a strategy that’s best for you.