You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. First, you try to use their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, indoor 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 spins around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says crossly, “what are you shouting for?”
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or irritability. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often reported in those with hearing loss. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help illustrate why Greg can’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets cranky when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss remains untreated. But every now and then, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be eating in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or someone is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a little aggravated, honestly. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud anything is. 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. How is that possible?
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- The interior of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- 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. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- 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 (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes very loud.
Think about it this way: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Sounds like hyperacusis
You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s likely because they’re often confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That conflation is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud suddenly.
But here are a few considerable differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment definitely is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem really loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but a whisper can sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for people who have hyperacusis. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few 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. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, hearing aids are at the center of that treatment. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. That’s why addressing auditory recruitment will almost always require scheduling an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be identified. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower the volume of those frequencies. 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 convey here).
Only certain types of hearing aid will be successful. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Make an appointment with us
It’s essential that you recognize that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. You will also get the additional benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.