You know that it can be challenging to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. Their name is the first thing you try saying. You say “Greg”, but you get no response because you used an inside volume level. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re shouting for.
It’s not just stubbornness and impatience that create this situation. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those who have hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Normally, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially if it goes untreated. But every now and then, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be having dinner in a restaurant, and things will get really loud. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or somebody is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many people will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are little hairs, known as stereocilia, that cover your inner ear. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs deteriorate. Over time, these fragile hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There is always some mixture of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes really loud.
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. That’s most likely because they’re often confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very suddenly get loud.
But there are some key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but a whisper can sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never return once it goes. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why addressing auditory recruitment will nearly always require making an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be determined. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s kind of like magic, only it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really well is what we’re trying to convey here).
Successful treatment can only be accomplished with specific types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Reach out to us for an appointment
It’s essential that you know that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
It doesn’t have to keep making you miserable.