You know that it can be challenging to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a standard, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “why are you shouting?”
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this interaction. People with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help illustrate 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?
So, hearing loss is kind of curious. Normally, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, particularly if it goes untreated. But every now and then, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be having a conversation, or be having dinner in a restaurant, and things will get really loud. So loud that it can become uncomfortable. Maybe it’s somebody shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers film, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have 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. 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 noticeable hearing loss symptoms. How can that be?
The cause of this sound 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. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Damage to 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. Your degree of hearing loss will be increasingly more severe the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this process doesn’t happen evenly. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send a warning message to your brain. So, suddenly, 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: everything is silent 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 might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are often confused. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud all of a sudden.
But here are some substantial differences:
- While hyperacusis has no link to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary 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 can sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s usually not the case.
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. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. 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 identify 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 kind of like magic, only it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really well is what we’re trying to communicate here).
Only specific types of hearing aid will be successful. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Call us for an appointment
If you are experiencing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to realize that you can find relief. You will also get the extra benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But scheduling an appointment is the first step. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
It doesn’t have to keep making you miserable.