If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a challenge. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re shouting for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this interaction. People with hearing loss frequently 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 worse?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a busy restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe the movie suddenly gets really loud or somebody is yelling to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many individuals who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud anything is. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very noticeable hearing loss symptoms. How can that be?
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 your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs are damaged. Over time, these little hairs are permanently damaged by repeated exposure to loud sounds. As a result, your hearing becomes less sensitive. Your level of hearing loss will be increasingly worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this process doesn’t take place evenly. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the damaged hairs are exposed to a loud sound, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a signal of alarm 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 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 would otherwise!
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. There is a condition known as hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are frequently confused. At first glance, this confusion is understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very abruptly get loud.
But there are some key differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment absolutely is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem really loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. 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 a few similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never come back once it goes. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to schedule 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 adjusted to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s a really effective treatment.
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 necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to deal with your symptoms.
Call us for an appointment
It’s essential that you recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all starts by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.