Sounds bother everyone differently. However, there are people who seem to be more sensitive to sounds than others. They may struggle to eat in restaurants and even go out in public because their ears are just too sensitive. This is called hyperacusis and here are some questions that you may have about the disease.
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What is hyperacusis?
If you have Hyperacusis, it is because your inner ear is hypersensitive to the sounds that are coming in. You may struggle to go out in public because the noises are just too much. Many people who have hyperacusis can wear earplugs if they have to go out to alleviate much of the pain, but many just prefer to stay in the privacy of their own homes.
It isn't a really common disease, only around 7-15% of the population are affected by it, this means most people are unaware it exists which can lead to it going undiagnosed in people who need help.
How is it diagnosed?
Hyperacusis is diagnosed in many ways. First, your doctor will take a thorough history. There are many different diseases of the inner ear that can present the same way, though some are sensitive to certain sounds, while hyperacusis means that you are sensitive to all sounds.
Because the treatments are all different, it is important to do some testing to ensure that you are treating the right disease. Usually, we start with a loudness discomfort level. You will have to sit in a booth and we will slowly increase the sound, until you can't stand it. For most people, it becomes unbearable around the 90-decibel mark. If you are suffering from hyperacusis, you may struggle to get anywhere near that point!
We also use a questionnaire, which helps us in the diagnosis and help us realize how severe the problem really is.
How is Hyperacusis treated?
The best treatment for Hyperacusis involves a procedure, invented by Dr. Silverstein, where we take some tissue from above your ear and place it on the bones of hearing.
We believe that this works because it dampens the sound waves that are coming into the inner ear. This improves your ability to tolerate loud sounds.
Is the procedure painful?
It is a minor procedure that is almost painless. While many patients aren't affected by it at all, some need to take some Tylenol for a day or two.
You will have to go home with packing in your ear for a week.
What are the side effects?
Just like with every procedure that we perform, there is always a risk of hearing loss or infection. However, we have performed this procedure about 65 times, with minimal side effects. One potential side effect (due to the nerves that run through the area) is a temporary metallic taste on your tongue. It can take a few months for this to go away, but it is very rare.
When will I notice a difference?
Your ability to hear is going to stay the same. The only difference is that you will be able to tolerate loud sounds. Some have noticed a difference as soon as the packing was removed, while others noticed it a few months later. Many times the procedure results in life changing events, greatly improving quality of life in patients.
Are the results permanent?
The first patient to undergo the procedure had it done almost 10 years ago and hasn't had any problems since! Long term results indicate that good results last.
If you are struggling to go out in public due to the noises around you, you don't have to be afraid to ask for help. We can help you live a fuller life, where you can hear normally and spend your time doing what you want to!
So, please don't hesitate to contact us if you are in need of an ear, nose, and throat specialist. We will be here for you.