If you have a partner with untreated hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a challenge. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a standard, indoor volume level, so you get no reply. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this interaction. Individuals with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you speak to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
So, hearing loss can be kind of curious. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a busy restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can get 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 think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many people who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t get a handle on 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 called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss happens as these hairs are damaged. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- 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 (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed 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 this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s probably because they’re frequently confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud suddenly.
But here are some considerable 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 sound really loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but with hyperacusis, a whisper could sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few superficially similar symptoms. But they are quite different conditions.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to schedule 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 reduce the volume of those frequencies. It’s a very effective treatment.
Only certain 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.
Call us for an appointment
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud sounds, 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 making an appointment is the first step. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.