Pain is your body’s way of supplying information. It’s an effective method though not a really pleasant one. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is occurring and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, despite their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a specific set of sounds (commonly sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
No one’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, although it is often linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological concerns). When it comes to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be 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 a three-day migraine.
That’s why treatment is so essential. 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.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common 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. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis episode. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech approach. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, 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 in-depth methods of managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change how you react to specific types of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. Training yourself to disregard sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Less prevalent methods
There are also some less common approaches for managing hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. Both of these strategies have met with only mixed success, so they aren’t as frequently utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis tends to vary from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the right treatment for you.