You know that it can be difficult 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 raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and impatience that cause this situation. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often documented in those who have hearing loss. So it seems logical that Greg gets aggravated 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?
So, hearing loss is sort of peculiar. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially 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 loud. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers film, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can, truthfully, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals who notice this will feel like they’re going crazy. They have a difficult time determining how loud things are. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very noticeable hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. this is how it works:
- There are little hairs, called stereocilia, covering the inside of your ear. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what produces age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they never heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your level of hearing loss will be increasingly more severe the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this process doesn’t happen evenly. There is always some mixture of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send a warning 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 quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. That’s likely because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. When you first compare them, this confusion is easy to understand. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very suddenly get loud.
But here are a few significant differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment definitely is.
- When you’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem really loud to you. Think about it this way: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. That’s not always 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 managed?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never come back once it goes. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively manage auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will almost always require scheduling an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, do not have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to address your symptoms.
Reach out to us for an appointment
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to realize that you can find relief. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But scheduling an appointment is the starting point. 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.