You know that it can be difficult to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. First, you try to use their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no response because you used an inside 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 grouchily asks what you’re yelling for.
This situation isn’t the result of stubbornness or irritability. People with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help illustrate why Greg can’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets aggravated when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
So, hearing loss can be kind of peculiar. Usually, 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 loud. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or someone is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can, honestly, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. That’s because they can’t get a handle on 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. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. Here’s how it works:
- The interior of your ears are covered with tiny hairs called stereocilia. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they are unable to heal. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the impaired 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 like this: everything is quiet 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 might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are frequently confused. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can make sounds really loud all of a sudden.
But there are a few key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment definitely is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem really 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 could sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s usually not the situation.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are entirely different conditions.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be identified. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those wavelengths. It’s sort of like magic, but it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really effectively is what we’re trying to communicate here).
Successful treatment will only be accomplished with certain types of hearing aids. 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
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 making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.