You know that it can be challenging to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. Their name is the first thing you try saying. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an inside volume level. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this interaction. 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 loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially if it goes untreated. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be having a conversation, or be having dinner 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: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many people who experience this will feel like they’re going crazy. That’s because they can’t determine how loud things are. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very obvious hearing loss symptoms. How is that possible?
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- The interior of your ears are covered with tiny hairs called stereocilia. These hairs resonate 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 are damaged. Over time, these little hairs are permanently damaged by repeated exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this process doesn’t occur evenly. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (thus the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything gets really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud while everything else is quiet. So it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are frequently confused. That conflation is, initially, understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very abruptly get loud.
But here are a few substantial differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment absolutely is.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem really loud to you. Think about it like this: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but when you have hyperacusis, a whisper might sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Most people who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. That’s not necessarily the situation with auditory recruitment.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
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 largely prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And those hearing aids need to be specifically calibrated. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will nearly always require scheduling an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be determined. Your hearing aids can then be adjusted to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s a really effective treatment.
Effective treatment can only work with specific types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Contact us for an appointment
It’s essential that you know that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But scheduling an appointment is the first step. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.