If you have a partner with untreated hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a problem. Their name is the first thing you try saying. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an indoor volume level. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re shouting for.
This interaction isn’t the result of stubbornness or impatience. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it makes sense 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?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. 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 becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice this. 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. How is that possible?
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. It works like this:
- There are little hairs, called stereocilia, covering your inner ear. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what produces age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this process doesn’t occur evenly. There is always some combination of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, suddenly, everything is really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it this way: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are frequently confused. When you first compare them, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can make sounds really loud suddenly.
But here are some substantial differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem very loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but with hyperacusis, a whisper may sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most people who experience 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 aren’t the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And those hearing aids have to be specially calibrated. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will nearly always require making 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 reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Effective treatment can only be accomplished with certain types of hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, don’t have the required technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to address your symptoms.
Call 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 scheduling an appointment is the first step. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.