If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a problem. Their name is the first thing you try saying. You say “Greg”, but you get no response because you used an indoor volume level. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
It’s not just stubbornness and impatience that cause this situation. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg doesn’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets cranky when you shout at him.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a packed restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or somebody is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your ability to hear, 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. It works like this:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what produces age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they never heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged and healthy 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. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets very loud.
Think about it like this: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are often confused. That conflation is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can make sounds very loud all of a sudden.
But there are a few 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 really loud to you. Think about it this way: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the case.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few 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 goes. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully manage auditory recruitment. Normally, hearing aids are at the center of that treatment. 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 really effective treatment.
Successful treatment will only be accomplished with specific types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Make an appointment with us
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to realize that you can get relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all begins by making an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a typical part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.