You know that it can be difficult 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 indoor volume level. You try raising 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.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this situation. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often reported 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?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. 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 become uncomfortable. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or somebody is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a little aggravated, honestly. Many people who notice this will feel like they’re going crazy. They have a hard time determining how loud things are. Imagine, all of your friends, family, 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. It works like this:
- There are tiny hairs, known as stereocilia, that cover your inner ear. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted 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 damaged, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be increasingly worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud sound, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything is really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it like this: That Michael Bay explosion is loud while everything else is quiet. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are frequently confused. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud all of a sudden.
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.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound really loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; 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 situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never return once it’s gone. Managing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. 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 causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those wavelengths. It’s sort 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).
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.
Make an appointment with us
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to realize that you can find relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But scheduling an appointment is the first step. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.