If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a challenge. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, inside volume level, so you get no reply. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this interaction. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those with hearing loss. 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?
So, hearing loss is kind of peculiar. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. But every now and then, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be having a conversation, or be eating in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s someone shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers film, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice this. They have a hard time determining how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, known as stereocilia, covering your inner ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs deteriorate. Over time, these little hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your level of hearing loss will be progressively worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this process doesn’t take place evenly. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send a warning message to your brain. So, suddenly, everything gets really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?
You may think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s probably because they’re often confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very suddenly get loud.
But there are some key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no link 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 extremely loud to you. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but with hyperacusis, a whisper may sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for people with hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s normally not the case.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully treat auditory recruitment. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. 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. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to reduce the volume of those wavelengths. It’s kind of like magic, but it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really well is what we’re trying to convey here).
Effective treatment will only be accomplished with specific types of hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, don’t have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to address your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with us
If you are experiencing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to recognize that you can get 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 first step. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.