You know that it can be challenging to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. First, you try to use their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an indoor volume level. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still no reply. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those who have hearing loss. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg can’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets cranky when you shout at him.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
So, hearing loss is kind of curious. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss 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. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers movie, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can, truthfully, put you in an irritable mood. Many people will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. They have a hard time figuring out how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition called auditory recruitment. Here’s how it works:
- There are little hairs, known as stereocilia, covering the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they are unable to heal. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. Your level of hearing loss will be increasingly worse the more hairs that are compromised.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything is very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it like this: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
You may think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are frequently confused. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud suddenly.
But there are a few key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound really loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but a whisper can sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Most individuals who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. That’s not necessarily the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively address auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will nearly always require making an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those wavelengths. It’s a really effective treatment.
Effective treatment can only work with certain types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Reach out to us for an appointment
If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to recognize that you can find relief. You will also get the additional benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.