You know that it can be challenging to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this situation. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg can’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets aggravated when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss remains untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or somebody is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can, truthfully, put you in a cranky mood. Many people will feel like they’re going mad when they experience this. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud anything is. 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?
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. Here’s 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. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. As a result, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send a warning message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, 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 will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are often confused. That confusion is, at first, understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very suddenly get loud.
But there are a few key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment absolutely is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem very loud for someone 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 for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feelings of pain. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never return once it goes. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively treat auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be identified. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Effective treatment will 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
If you are noticing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to know that you can find relief. You will also get the extra benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But making an appointment is the first step. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.