Pain is your body’s way of giving you information. It’s not a very fun approach but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing near goes too loud, the pain lets you know that major ear damage is happening and you instantly (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 quiet sounds too. This affliction is known by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most people with hyperacusis have episodes that are triggered by a certain set of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will frequently sound really loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they are.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there’s a noticeable degree of personal variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You may notice pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing may last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- Everyone else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you have hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, especially when your ears are very sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a terrible 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 your best option (this all tends to be quite variable). Here are some of the most common options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound perfect for Halloween (sorry), actually though, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
Earplugs are a less sophisticated take on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are definitely some drawbacks to this low tech approach. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, call us for a consultation.
One of the most thorough methods of managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll try to change the way you respond to specific kinds of sounds by employing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive rate of success.
Methods that are less prevalent
Less prevalent strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.