You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. First, you try to use their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, inside volume level, so you get no reply. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says crossly, “what are you shouting for?”
This situation isn’t due to stubbornness or irritability. Individuals with hearing loss often 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 worse?
So, hearing loss can be sort of curious. Normally, 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. So loud that it can become uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers movie, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a bit cranky, honestly. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t determine how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. How can that be?
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. Here’s how it works:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs resonate 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 little hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the damaged hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. So, suddenly, everything is really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it this way: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. That’s probably because they’re often confused with a condition called hyperacusis. At first glance, this confusion is understandable. Both conditions can make sounds really loud suddenly.
But here are a few substantial differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound really loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but with hyperacusis, a whisper may sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for people with hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s usually not the situation.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never return once it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively manage auditory recruitment. In most cases, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And those hearing aids have to be specially calibrated. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Effective treatment will only be accomplished with certain types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Reach out to us for an appointment
It’s essential that you recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all starts by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.