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 indoor volume level. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re shouting for.
This situation isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often reported 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 aggravated when you shout at him.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss goes untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a busy restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s someone yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers film, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they notice this. They have a difficult time identifying how loud things are. Imagine, all of your friends, family, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your ability to hear, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. It works like this:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss happens as these hairs are damaged. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- 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 (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything gets very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it like this: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it’s going to 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 probably because they’re frequently confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud all of a sudden.
But there are a few key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no link to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but with hyperacusis, a whisper could sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively address auditory recruitment. In most cases, that treatment will include 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.
The exact frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be determined. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to reduce that wavelength of sound. 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 convey here).
Only specific types of hearing aid will be effective. 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 experiencing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to realize that you can get relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
It doesn’t need to keep making you miserable.