Pain is your body’s method of supplying information. It’s an effective strategy though not a very enjoyable one. 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, despite their marginal volume, 8-10% of individuals will feel pain from low volume sounds as well. This affliction is referred to by experts as hyperacusis. This is the medical name for excessively 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 specific frequency trigger episodes of hyperacusis for people who experience it. Quiet noises will frequently sound really loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
No one’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it is often related to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological issues). There’s a significant degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, severity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- The louder the sound is, the more powerful your response and pain will be.
- You might also have dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
- 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).
- You will hear a certain sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound really loud to you.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide assortment of frequencies, the world can seem like a minefield. Your hearing could be assaulted and you could be left with a terrible headache and ringing ears anytime you go out.
That’s why it’s so essential 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 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. While it may sound ideal 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 mask those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis attack if you can’t hear the offending sound!
A less sophisticated approach to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you’re unable to hear… well, anything. It’s undoubtedly a low-tech approach, and there are some drawbacks. 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. If you’re thinking about using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
An strategy, called ear retraining therapy, is one of the most thorough hyperacusis treatments. You’ll attempt to change how you respond to specific kinds of sounds by using physical therapy, emotional counseling, and a combination of devices. The concept is that you can train yourself to ignore sounds (kind of like with tinnitus). This process depends on your dedication but usually has a positive success rate.
Strategies that are less prevalent
There are also some less prevalent approaches for treating hyperacusis, such as medications or ear tubes. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the person, because they have met with mixed success.
A big difference can come from treatment
Because hyperacusis tends to differ from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no single best approach to treating hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the right treatment for you.