If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a problem. Their name is the first thing you try saying. You say “Greg”, but you get no response because you used an inside volume level. You try increasing 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 crossly asks what you’re shouting for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this situation. People with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it makes sense that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds worse?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be having dinner in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s someone shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers movie, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can also make you feel a bit cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they experience this. They have a difficult time identifying how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your ability to hear, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. How is that possible?
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this process doesn’t take place evenly. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the damaged 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, suddenly, everything is really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it this way: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Sounds 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. When you first compare them, this confusion is understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very abruptly get loud.
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.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem really loud to you. Think about it this way: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals who have hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s normally not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Is there any treatment for 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 largely prevent this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively address auditory recruitment. Normally, hearing aids are at the center of that treatment. And those hearing aids have to be specially calibrated. So it will be necessary to schedule 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 adjusted to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s kind of like magic, only 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).
Only specific types of hearing aid will be successful. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Call us for an appointment
If you are experiencing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to know that you can get relief. You will also get the added benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But scheduling an appointment is the starting point. This hypersensitivity is a normal part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.