If you have a partner with untreated hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a challenge. First, you try to use their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, inside volume level, so you get no reply. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still no reply. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
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 explain why Greg doesn’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 peculiar thing. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, particularly if it goes untreated. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be having a conversation, or be eating in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s somebody yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers film, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they experience this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud things are. Imagine, all of your friends, family, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. How is that possible?
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. Here’s how it works:
- There are little hairs, called stereocilia, covering the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss happens as these hairs deteriorate. 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 take place evenly. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send a warning message 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 it will 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. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are frequently confused. That conflation is, at first, understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud all of a sudden.
But here are some considerable differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment absolutely is.
- When you’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively normal volume seem really loud to you. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but with hyperacusis, a whisper might sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s normally not the case.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few superficially similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never come back once it goes. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively treat auditory recruitment. Typically, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And those hearing aids have to be specially calibrated. 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 adjusted to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Successful treatment can only be accomplished with certain types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Schedule 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 added benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.