If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a struggle. First, you try to say their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no response because you used an indoor volume level. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re yelling for.
This situation isn’t due to stubbornness or irritability. People with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it seems logical that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss 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 loud. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s somebody shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers movie, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many people will feel like they’re going mad when they notice this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your family and friends are pointing out your very noticeable hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they are unable to heal. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this process doesn’t happen evenly. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a signal of alarm to your brain. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets really 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 otherwise would!
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are frequently confused. That conflation is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can make sounds really loud suddenly.
But there are some key 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 normal volume seem very loud to you. Think about it this way: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but with hyperacusis, a whisper may sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for people with hyperacusis. That’s not necessarily the situation with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are quite different conditions.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
The bad news is that 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 protect against this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. 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. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s kind of like magic, only 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 specific types of hearing aid will be successful. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Reach out to us for an appointment
It’s essential that you recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. You will also get the additional benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all starts by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
It doesn’t have to keep making you miserable.