You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. 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 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 yelling for.
This situation isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently reported in those with hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he repeatedly 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 peculiar thing. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or somebody is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can, truthfully, put you in an irritable mood. Many people who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. They have a hard time identifying how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your ability to hear, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. How can that be?
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs deteriorate. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this process doesn’t take place 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. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets really loud.
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. That’s most likely because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That conflation is, at first, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get 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’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem extremely loud to you. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most people who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not necessarily the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never return once it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully address auditory recruitment. 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.
We’ll be able to identify the particular wavelengths of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to diminish 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 well is what we’re trying to communicate here).
Effective treatment will only work with specific types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Contact us for an appointment
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to realize that you can find relief. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to enhance your life’s soundscape.
But it all starts by making an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.