You know that it can be difficult to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a standard, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still no reply. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and crossly asks what you’re yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this situation. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
So, hearing loss can be sort of curious. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. 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 become uncomfortable. Maybe it’s somebody shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers film, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can, truthfully, put you in an irritable mood. Many people will feel like they’re going mad when they experience this. They have a hard time figuring out how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. this is how it works:
- There are little hairs, called stereocilia, covering your inner ear. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss happens as these hairs are damaged. Over time, these little hairs are permanently damaged by frequent 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 process doesn’t happen evenly. There will be a mixture 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 a warning message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything gets very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud noise).
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 occurs, than it normally would.
Isn’t that the same as 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 frequently confused. At first glance, this confusion is understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud suddenly.
But there are some key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- When you’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem very loud to you. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout when you have auditory recruitment; but a whisper can sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Most people who experience hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they are entirely 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 is gone, it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. 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 nearly always require scheduling an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be identified. Your hearing aids can then be adjusted to diminish that wavelength of sound. It’s kind of like magic, but it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really well is what we’re trying to convey here).
Effective treatment will only work with certain types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Make an appointment with us
It’s essential that you know that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. You will also get the additional benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But making an appointment is the starting point. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
It doesn’t have to keep making you miserable.