You know that it can be difficult to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, inside volume level, so you get no reply. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re yelling for.
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or irritability. People with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg doesn’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets cranky when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
So, hearing loss can be sort of peculiar. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, particularly if it goes untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a packed restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or somebody is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going mad. They have a difficult time identifying how loud things are. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very noticeable hearing loss symptoms. How can that be?
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. It works like this:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs called stereocilia. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss takes place as these hairs are damaged. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they never heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be increasingly more severe the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (thus the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes really loud.
Think about it this way: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Sounds like hyperacusis
You might think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s probably because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That conflation is, at first, understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud all of a sudden.
But here are some significant differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment absolutely is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are quite different conditions.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never return once it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully treat auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will nearly always require making an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be determined. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to reduce the volume of those wavelengths. It’s a very effective treatment.
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Schedule an appointment with us
It’s essential that you know that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But it all starts by making an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
You can get help so call us.