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. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and impatience that cause this interaction. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you speak to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a busy restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s somebody yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers film, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can, honestly, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud things are. 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?
A condition called auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. It works like this:
- There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, covering your inner ear. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs are damaged. 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 compromised.
- But this process doesn’t take place evenly. There is always some mixture of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud sound, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. So, suddenly, everything gets really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it this way: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are often confused. That conflation is, at first, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very abruptly get loud.
But there are some key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively normal volume seem very loud to you. Think about it like this: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals who have hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Managing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively address auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. That’s why addressing auditory recruitment will nearly always require making an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be determined. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower the volume of those frequencies. It’s a really effective treatment.
Effective treatment can only work with certain types of hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, don’t have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to address your symptoms.
Make an appointment with us
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to realize that you can get relief. You will also get the extra benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But it all starts by scheduling an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.