If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a challenge. 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.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this interaction. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often documented in those who have hearing loss. 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 hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?
So, hearing loss is sort of curious. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss 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 get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s somebody shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers movie, 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 bit cranky, honestly. Many people who experience this will feel like they’re going crazy. That’s because they can’t get a handle on 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. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- There are tiny hairs, known as stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs vibrate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Damage to these hairs is what produces age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. 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” (hence 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 as they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it this way: 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?
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. That’s probably because they’re frequently confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. When you first compare them, this confusion is understandable. Auditory recruitment is a condition in which you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very abruptly get loud.
But there are a few key differences:
- While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound really loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it this way: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; 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 case with auditory recruitment.
At the end of the day, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are not the same condition.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never return once it goes. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And those hearing aids have to be specifically calibrated. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
The precise 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 sort 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).
Only specific types of hearing aid will be effective. The symptoms can’t be addressed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.
Schedule an appointment with us
It’s essential that you recognize 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 starts by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.