If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a struggle. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still nothing. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says crossly, “what are you shouting for?”
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this interaction. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those with hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you speak to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
So, hearing loss is kind of peculiar. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a packed restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s somebody yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest 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 notice this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud things are. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your family and friends are pointing out your very obvious hearing loss symptoms. How is that possible?
A condition known as auditory recruitment can cause 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 converted to sounds by your brain.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these fragile hairs are permanently damaged by repeated exposure to loud sounds. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. Your level of hearing loss will be increasingly worse the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud sound, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (thus the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. Suddenly, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets very loud.
Think about it this way: everything is silent 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
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 often confused. That conflation is, at first, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud noises, and hyperacusis is a condition where sounds very abruptly get loud.
But there are a few key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will seem 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 for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most people who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some 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. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
The same is true of auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively manage auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why addressing auditory recruitment will almost always require making 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.
Only specific types of hearing aid will be successful. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for instance, do not have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to deal with your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with us
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 better.
But making an appointment is the starting point. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.
You can get help so call us.