You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, inside volume level, so you get no reply. 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 shouting for.
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg can’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 strange thing. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can become uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers movie, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can, truthfully, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals who notice this will feel like they’re going crazy. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud things are. 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. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are little hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these little hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this process doesn’t occur evenly. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud sound, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, suddenly, everything is very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud sound).
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 exactly like 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. When you first compare them, this confusion is easy to understand. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very abruptly get loud.
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’re dealing with 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 a whisper can sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feeling pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the situation.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are quite different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Addressing 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 successfully be treated. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will almost always require scheduling 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 adjusted to reduce that wavelength of sound. 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 communicate here).
Only specific types of hearing aid will be effective. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, do not have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they will not be able to address your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with us
If you are noticing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to know that you can find relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all starts by scheduling an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.