One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a very enjoyable approach but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing next to gets too loud, the pain lets you know that significant ear damage is happening and you immediately (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But, despite their minimal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from low volume sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this condition as hyperacusis. This is the medical label for excessively sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Increased sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. The majority of people with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a specific group of sounds (commonly sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will often sound really loud. And loud noises sound even louder.
No one’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s often linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some cases, neurological concerns). With regards to symptoms, severity, and treatment, there is a noticeable degree of individual variability.
What’s a normal hyperacusis response?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You will notice a particular sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem very loud to you.
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
- 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).
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, especially when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide assortment of frequencies. 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 important. 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 common options include the following.
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. This is a device that can cancel out specific frequencies. So those unpleasant frequencies can be eliminated before they reach your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less sophisticated strategy to this general method is earplugs: if all sound is stopped, there’s no chance of a hyperacusis event. There are undoubtedly some drawbacks to this low tech approach. 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. Consult us if you’re considering wearing earplugs.
One of the most in-depth approaches to managing hyperacusis is called ear retraining therapy. You’ll attempt to change the way you react to certain types of sounds by utilizing physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a mix of devices. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your commitment but generally has a positive success rate.
Methods that are less prevalent
Less prevalent approaches, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed results.
A big difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be created. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on determining a strategy that’s best for you.