If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a challenge. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
This interaction isn’t the result of stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently reported in those with hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, particularly if it goes untreated. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be eating in a restaurant, and things will get really loud. 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 little aggravated, honestly. Many people will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. 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.
The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition called auditory recruitment. this is how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, that cover your inner ear. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs are damaged. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively 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 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. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets very loud.
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s likely because they’re often confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can make sounds very loud suddenly.
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.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem very loud to you. Think about it like this: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but with hyperacusis, a whisper might sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not necessarily the case with auditory recruitment.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. Normally, hearing aids are at the center of that treatment. And those hearing aids have to be specifically calibrated. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower the volume of those wavelengths. It’s sort of like magic, only it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really effectively is what we’re trying to communicate here).
Only certain types of hearing aid will be successful. 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
If you are noticing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to realize that you can get relief. You will also get the extra benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.