You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. First, you try to use their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an inside volume level. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still no reply. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no appreciation of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “what are you shouting for?”
It’s not just stubbornness and impatience that cause this situation. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those with hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
So, hearing loss can be sort of curious. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss remains unaddressed. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a packed restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or somebody is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many people who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your family and friends are pointing out your very obvious hearing loss symptoms. How can that be?
The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. Here’s how it works:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these fragile hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. Your level of hearing loss will be progressively worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything is very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud while everything else is quiet. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are often confused. That confusion is, at first, understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very abruptly get loud.
But there are some key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem really loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s normally not the case.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And those hearing aids have to be specially calibrated. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be identified. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a really effective treatment.
Effective 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.
Contact us for an appointment
If you are experiencing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to know that you can find relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But scheduling an appointment is the first step. This hypersensitivity is a normal part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
You can get help so call us.