Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s an effective method though not a very enjoyable one. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain allows you to know that severe ear damage is occurring and you immediately (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, despite their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from low volume sounds as well. This condition is known by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a particular group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will frequently sound really loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
Hyperacusis is frequently linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological difficulties, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is normal for hyperacusis?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most cases, will look and feel::
- You might experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- Balance issues and dizziness can also be experienced.
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem very loud to you.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you have hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a horrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so essential. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most commonly used treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out specific wavelengths of sounds. So those offending frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same general approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech strategy. There’s some evidence to suggest 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 try to change how you react to certain types of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). Generally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your dedication to the process.
Strategies that are less common
There are also some less common strategies for managing hyperacusis, like medications or ear tubes. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed results.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining an approach that’s best for you.