If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a challenge. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still nothing. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re shouting for.
This interaction isn’t the result of stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently reported in those with hearing loss. 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 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, particularly if your hearing loss remains untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a packed 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 latest Transformers film, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many people who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. It works like this:
- There are little hairs, known as stereocilia, that cover your inner ear. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this process doesn’t happen evenly. There is always some mixture of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud sound, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything gets really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it like this: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. 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 called hyperacusis. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can make sounds very loud all of a sudden.
But here are a few significant differences:
- While hyperacusis has no link to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. Usually, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And those hearing aids need to be specifically calibrated. So it will be necessary to make 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 reduce the volume of those frequencies. It’s a really effective treatment.
Effective treatment can only work with certain types of hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, don’t have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they will not be able to address 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 clearer.
But scheduling an appointment is the first step. This hypersensitivity is a typical part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.