You know that it can be a challenge 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 response because you used an inside volume level. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this situation. Individuals with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help illustrate 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?
So, hearing loss is sort of curious. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s somebody shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers film, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a bit cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud anything is. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very obvious hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition called auditory recruitment. 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.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss happens as these hairs deteriorate. Over time, these delicate 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 worse the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some mixture of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when the damaged 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. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets very loud.
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are frequently confused. At first glance, this confusion is understandable. Both conditions can make sounds very 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 very loud to you. Think about it this way: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but when you have hyperacusis, a whisper could sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Most people who experience hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they are quite different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never come back once it goes. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And those hearing aids have 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 triggering your auditory recruitment will be identified. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those frequencies. It’s a very effective treatment.
Successful treatment can only be accomplished with specific types of hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, do not have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to deal with your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with us
It’s essential that you recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But scheduling an appointment is the first step. This hypersensitivity is a normal part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.