You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have neglected hearing loss. 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 saying Greg’s name a little louder and still no reply. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no appreciation of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
This interaction isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Individuals with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it seems logical that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you speak to him at a normal volume.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be a peculiar thing. Normally, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, particularly if it goes untreated. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a packed 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 newest Transformers film, 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 little aggravated, honestly. Many people will feel like they’re going crazy when they experience this. That’s because they can’t get a handle on how loud anything is. You have a sudden sensitivity to loud sounds even as your friends and family are pointing out your very obvious hearing loss symptoms. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. It works like this:
- The interior of your ears are covered in tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then converted to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they never heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be increasingly more severe the more hairs that are compromised.
- 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 damaged hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. So, all of a sudden, everything is very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud while everything else is quiet. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Sounds like hyperacusis
You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s most likely because they’re frequently confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That conflation is, initially, reasonable. Both conditions can make sounds really loud suddenly.
But here are a few considerable differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem really 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 is painful. Literally. Most people who experience hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not always the situation with auditory recruitment.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are quite different conditions.
Is there any treatment for 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 largely prevent this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to effectively address auditory recruitment. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be identified. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s sort 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).
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 will not be able to address your symptoms.
Contact us for an appointment
If you are noticing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to realize that you can find relief. You will also get the additional benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all begins by scheduling an appointment. 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.