Ask the Doctor: Hearing Becoming Too Good
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is there any help for people whose hearing is too good?
I feel like I am constantly bombarded by noises that others don’t notice.
Having to listen to people’s conversations, eating and crackling papers have been particularly stressful in the office.
At home, lawnmowers, power tools and ice-cream trucks have left me in tears.
I wear landscaper’s ear protectors at home, but I cannot do that at work.
Is there any way to turn down the volume of the world? - K.F.
ANSWER: Hearing whose volume control has been turned to the highest setting goes by the name of hyperacusis.
It’s a problem that you share with quite a few other people.
Do you have ear ringing or other noises, too?
About 90% of those with hyperacusis also suffer from ear noises.
On the list of causes are head injury, stress and some medicines.
For many, no cause is ever found.
It might be that your brain has a defect in the way it regulates incoming sound.
Your first task is an examination by an ear, nose and throat doctor.
If the doctor confirms the hyperacusis diagnosis, programs that desensitize your ears to sound are helpful.
Listening to low-frequency sound for two hours a day turns down the volume of incoming sound.
The two hours don’t have to be one entire block of time; they can be broken into smaller periods.
Results take several months.
This is something for which you must have guidance.
The ENT doctor can direct you to programs available in your locale.
Earmuffs and other sound-dampening devices are fine, but you should not wear them constantly.
Continual use worsens this condition.