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 regular, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still no reply. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “what are you shouting for?”
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often reported in those who have hearing loss. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help illustrate 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 worse?
So, hearing loss can be kind of curious. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss remains untreated. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be having dinner in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. 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 also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many people who experience this will feel like they’re going mad. They have a hard time identifying how loud things are. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your family and friends are pointing out your very noticeable hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your 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 deteriorate. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this process doesn’t take place evenly. There is always some combination of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a signal of alarm 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 like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s likely because they’re frequently confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That confusion is, at first, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very abruptly 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 seem very loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but when you have hyperacusis, a whisper may sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s normally not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, hearing aids are at the center of that treatment. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will almost always require scheduling an appointment with us.
The precise 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 very effective treatment.
Only specific types of hearing aid will be effective. The symptoms can’t be managed 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 sound. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But scheduling an appointment is the starting point. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.