If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a struggle. First, you try to use their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an inside volume level. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re shouting for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this interaction. Individuals with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it seems logical 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 is kind of curious. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. But every now and then, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be having dinner 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, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many people will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice this. They have a difficult time identifying how loud things are. Imagine, all of your friends, family, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your ability to hear, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. How is that possible?
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, known as stereocilia, covering your inner ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively worse the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything gets 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 quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Sounds like hyperacusis
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. That’s most likely because they’re often confused with a condition called hyperacusis. When you first compare them, this confusion is understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very abruptly get loud.
But here are a few considerable differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the case.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few superficially similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never return once it goes. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be determined. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to reduce the volume of those frequencies. It’s kind of like magic, but it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really well is what we’re trying to communicate here).
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. 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 deal with your symptoms.
Contact us for an appointment
It’s essential that you know that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But making 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.