You know that it can be challenging 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 answer because you used an inside volume level. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says crossly, “what are you shouting 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 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 worse?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, particularly if it goes untreated. But every now and then, 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 it’s somebody yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers film, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?
Which can, honestly, put you in a cranky mood. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they notice this. They have a hard time determining how loud things are. Imagine, all of your friends, family, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. How is that possible?
A condition called auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- There are little hairs, known as stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss takes place as these hairs are damaged. Over time, these fragile hairs are permanently damaged by repeated exposure to loud sounds. As a result, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a combination of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when you hear a loud sound, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, suddenly, everything gets very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it like this: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s most likely because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud all of a sudden.
But there are some key differences:
- Hyperacusis is not directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but when you have hyperacusis, a whisper might sound like a shout.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most cases, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be identified. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower the volume of those wavelengths. 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 convey here).
Successful treatment can only work with specific 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 will not be able to deal with your symptoms.
Contact us for an appointment
It’s essential that you know that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.