If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you appreciate that getting their attention can be… a problem. 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 increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or irritability. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those who have hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
So, hearing loss can be sort of peculiar. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss remains 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. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers movie, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice 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 noticeable hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition called auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these delicate hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively worse the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud sound, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send a warning message to your brain. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes very loud.
Think about it this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s likely because they’re frequently confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That conflation is, initially, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very suddenly get loud.
But there are some key differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals who have hyperacusis. That’s not necessarily the case with auditory recruitment.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are entirely different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will nearly always require making an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to identify the specific wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. 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 communicate here).
Only specific types of hearing aid will be successful. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, don’t have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they will not be able to address your symptoms.
Reach out to us for an appointment
It’s essential that you know that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all begins by making an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
You can get help so call us.