You know that it can be difficult to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. Their name is the first thing you try saying. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an inside volume level. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. 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?”
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this situation. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently reported in those who have hearing loss. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg doesn’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 is kind of peculiar. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss remains untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s someone yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers film, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can, truthfully, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. 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 obvious hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are little 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 deteriorate. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes really loud.
Think about it this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud while everything else is quiet. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Sounds like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are frequently confused. 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 link to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively normal volume seem very loud to you. Think about it like this: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but with hyperacusis, a whisper might sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feelings of pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s usually not the case.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are entirely 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 prevent this, largely.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. 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 lower the volume of those wavelengths. It’s sort of like magic, but it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really effectively is what we’re trying to convey here).
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for instance, do not have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to deal with your symptoms.
Reach out to us for an appointment
If you are experiencing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to recognize that you can find relief. You will also get the extra benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But scheduling an appointment is the starting point. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
You can get help so call us.