If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you appreciate that getting their attention can be… a problem. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still nothing. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “why are you shouting?”
It’s not just stubbornness and impatience that cause this interaction. People with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it seems logical that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss remains unaddressed. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be having dinner in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. So loud that it can become 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, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. They have a hard time determining how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your hearing, 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. this is how it works:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss happens as these hairs deteriorate. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they are unable to heal. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this process doesn’t happen evenly. There is always some mixture of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes really loud.
Think about it this way: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s likely because they’re frequently confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That conflation is, at first, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very abruptly get loud.
But here are a few considerable differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound really loud for someone who has hyperacusis. 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. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feelings of pain. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
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. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the particular wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Reach out to us for an appointment
It’s essential that you recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But it all begins by making an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.