If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a problem. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a standard, indoor volume level, so you get no reply. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. 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 impatience that create this situation. Individuals with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it seems logical that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you speak to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, particularly if it 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 noisy. So loud that it can become uncomfortable. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or somebody is shouting to get your attention.
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 crazy when they notice this. 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 obvious hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition called auditory recruitment. this is how it works:
- The inside of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Damage to these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be increasingly worse the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this process doesn’t occur evenly. There will be a mixture 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. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes very loud.
Think about it this way: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s probably because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That confusion is, at first, understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud all of a sudden.
But there are some key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment definitely is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but when you have hyperacusis, a whisper could sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for people who have hyperacusis. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few superficially similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never come back once it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same goes for 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 almost always require scheduling an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Your hearing aids can then be adjusted to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a really effective treatment.
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for instance, don’t have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to deal with your symptoms.
Make an appointment with us
It’s essential that you recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a typical part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
You can get help so call us.