Pain is your body’s means of supplying information. It’s not a very fun approach but it can be effective. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a very loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is happening and you can take measures to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. This condition is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical 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.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are brought about by a certain set of sounds (usually sounds within a range of frequencies). Quiet noises will often sound extremely loud. And noises that are loud sound a lot louder than they actually are.
Hyperacusis is often connected with tinnitus, hearing problems, and even neurological issues, although no one really knows what actually causes it. With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there is a significant degree of personal variability.
What type of response is normal for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- The louder the sound is, the more extreme your response and discomfort will be.
- You might also experience dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
- Everybody else will think a specific sound is quiet but it will sound extremely loud to you.
- After you hear the initial sound, you could have pain and hear buzzing for days or even weeks.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When you are dealing with hyperacusis the world can be a minefield, particularly when your ears are extremely sensitive to a wide range of frequencies. Your hearing could be bombarded and you could be left with a terrible headache and ringing ears whenever you go out.
That’s why treatment is so important. There are a variety of treatments available depending on your particular situation and we can help you pick one that’s best for you. The most common options include the following.
A device known as a masking device is one of the most popular treatments for hyperacusis. This is technology that can cancel out certain wavelengths. So those unpleasant frequencies can be removed before they reach your ears. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
Earplugs are a less sophisticated play on the same basic approach: you can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. There are certainly some disadvantages to this low tech approach. Your general hearing problems, including hyperacusis, may get worse by using this approach, 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 combination of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change the way you respond to particular kinds of sounds. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. Normally, this approach has a good rate of success but depends heavily on your commitment to the process.
Strategies that are less prevalent
Less common methods, including ear tubes or medication, are also used to treat hyperacusis. Both of these strategies have met with only varying results, so they aren’t as commonly used (it’ll depend on the person and the specialist).
A huge difference can come from treatment
Depending on how you experience your symptoms, which differ from person to person, a unique treatment plan can be developed. There’s no one best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.