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 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 spins around with absolutely no appreciation of his comedic timing and says crossly, “what are you shouting for?”
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this interaction. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often documented in those who have hearing loss. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg doesn’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets cranky when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds worse?
So, hearing loss is kind of curious. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a busy restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or someone is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can, truthfully, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going crazy. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud things are. 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 called auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these fragile hairs are permanently damaged by frequent exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this process doesn’t occur evenly. There is always some combination of damaged hairs and healthy 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. So, all of a sudden, everything is very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it this way: everything is silent 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?
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. That’s most likely because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can make sounds really loud all of a sudden.
But there are a few key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no link to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem very loud to you. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most people who cope with hyperacusis report feelings of pain. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few superficially similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never come back once it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively manage auditory recruitment. Normally, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. 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. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to reduce the volume of those frequencies. It’s sort 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 instance, do not have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they will not be able to address your symptoms.
Contact us for an appointment
It’s essential that you recognize that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. You will also get the additional benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.