If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a struggle. Their name is the first thing you try saying. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a bit louder and still no reply. So finally, you shout.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re shouting for.
This situation isn’t the result of stubbornness or irritability. Individuals with hearing loss often 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 speak to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds worse?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially if it goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. So loud that it can become uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers movie, it just becomes really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going crazy when they notice this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. 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. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. It works like this:
- The inside of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs resonate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss takes place as these hairs deteriorate. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. As a result, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to 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” (thus 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 sound).
Think about it like this: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.
Sounds like hyperacusis
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. That’s probably because they’re frequently confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That confusion is, initially, understandable. Both conditions can make sounds really loud suddenly.
But here are some substantial 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 normal volume seem very loud to you. 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 who have hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s usually not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have some similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully address auditory recruitment. Normally, hearing aids are part of that treatment. 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 triggering your auditory recruitment will be identified. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those wavelengths. It’s a very effective treatment.
Successful treatment will only be accomplished with certain types of hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, don’t have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they won’t be able to address your symptoms.
Call us for an appointment
It’s essential that you know that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all starts by making an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.