You know that it can be challenging to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. First, you try to use their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an inside volume level. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
This interaction isn’t the result of stubbornness or irritability. Individuals with hearing loss often 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?
So, hearing loss can be kind of curious. Typical, 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. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or someone is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little aggravated, honestly. Many people who experience this will feel like they’re going crazy. They have a hard time figuring out how loud things are. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very obvious hearing loss symptoms. How is that possible?
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some mixture of damaged and healthy 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. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets really loud.
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Sounds like hyperacusis
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. That’s likely because they’re often confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That confusion is, at first, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud suddenly.
But here are some significant differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively normal volume seem extremely loud to you. Think about it like this: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feeling pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the case.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. Typically, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. That’s why addressing auditory recruitment will nearly always require scheduling an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower 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 effectively is what we’re trying to communicate here).
Effective treatment will only work with certain 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 noticing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to recognize that you can find relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.