Pain is your body’s way of giving you information. It’s not a terribly enjoyable method but it can be effective. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that major ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re wise) cover your ears or remove yourself from that rather loud environment.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from low volume sounds too. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. It’s a fancy name for overly 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
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds within a distinct frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Normally, quiet noises sound loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is often linked to tinnitus, hearing trouble, and even neurological issues, though no one really knows what actually causes it. There’s a significant degree of individual variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
Here’s how hyperacusis, in most situations, will look and feel::
- 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).
- You may also experience dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
- Your response and discomfort will be worse the louder the sound is.
- Everybody else will think a particular sound is quiet but it will sound very loud to you.
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 pleasant night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why treatment is so important. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out specific frequencies. So those offending frequencies can be removed before they make it to your ears. If you can’t hear the triggering sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less state-of-the-art strategy to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are certainly some drawbacks to this low tech method. There’s some research that suggests 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 thinking about using earplugs.
One of the most comprehensive approaches to managing hyperacusis is known as ear retraining therapy. You’ll use a combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change how you respond to particular types of sounds. The concept is that you can train yourself to disregard sounds (rather like with tinnitus). Normally, this strategy has a good success rate but depends a great deal on your commitment to the process.
Approaches that are less prevalent
Less common methods, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to treat hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as frequently used (it’ll depend on the individual and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to differ from person to person, a specialized treatment plan can be developed depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on finding the best treatment for you.