One way your body delivers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly fun approach but it can be beneficial. When your ears start to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone near you, you know damage is happening and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But, in spite of their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from quiet sounds as well. This condition is known by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical term for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. Most of the time sounds in a distinct frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who experience it. Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
nobody’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, though it is often linked to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological concerns). There’s a noticeable degree of individual variability with the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, 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).
- 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.
- You may also experience dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When you have hyperacusis the world can become a minefield, particularly when your ears are overly sensitive to a wide range 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. 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 common options:
A device called a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. This is a device that can cancel out certain frequencies. So those offensive frequencies can be removed before they get to your ears. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis attack.
A less state-of-the-art approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are definitely some disadvantages to this low tech approach. Your general hearing issues, including hyperacusis, could get worse by using this strategy, according to some evidence. Consult us if you’re thinking about using earplugs.
An approach, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change how you react to particular types of sounds. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this strategy has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Strategies that are less common
Less prevalent approaches, like ear tubes or medication, are also used to manage hyperacusis. Both of these approaches have met with only varying success, so they aren’t as commonly utilized (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
A big 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 experience them. Effectively treating hyperacusis depends on finding an approach that’s best for you.