If you have a partner with untreated hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a struggle. Their name is the first thing you try saying. 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 hear you. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
This situation isn’t due to stubbornness or irritability. People 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 aggravated when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a packed restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. 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 think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a bit cranky, honestly. Many people who experience this will feel like they’re going crazy. They have a difficult 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 is that possible?
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. It works like this:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs called stereocilia. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Damage to these hairs is what produces age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively 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 sound, the damaged 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 it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You may think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s probably because they’re frequently confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. When you first compare them, this confusion is easy to understand. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very suddenly get loud.
But here are some considerable differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most people who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s normally not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are entirely different conditions.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Managing hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, 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 making an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be determined. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those wavelengths. It’s a really effective treatment.
Effective treatment will only be accomplished with certain types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Contact us for an appointment
If you are experiencing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to know that you can find relief. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But scheduling an appointment is the starting point. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.