If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you know that getting their attention can be… a problem. First, you try to say their name. You say “Greg”, but you get no answer because you used an indoor volume level. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So you resort to shouting.
And that’s when Greg whirls around with absolutely no recognition of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “why are you shouting?”
This interaction isn’t the result of stubbornness or irritability. Individuals with hearing loss often report hypersensitivity to loud sound. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help illustrate why Greg doesn’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. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to diminish, especially if it goes untreated. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be having a conversation, or be eating in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s somebody shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers movie, 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 individuals who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. They have a difficult time figuring out how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your hearing, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. Here’s how it works:
- There are little hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss takes place as these hairs deteriorate. Over time, these fragile 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 is not an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged and healthy hairs.
- So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud sound, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a signal of alarm to your brain. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes really loud.
Think about it this way: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it would otherwise!
Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?
You might think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are frequently confused. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. 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 connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for somebody who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper could sound like a shout with hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Most individuals who cope with 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 very different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never return once it’s gone. Treatment of hearing loss can prevent this, largely.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully manage auditory recruitment. Typically, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to identify the specific wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. Your hearing aids can then be adjusted to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a really effective treatment.
Only specific types of hearing aid will be successful. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for instance, don’t have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they will not be able to address your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with us
It’s essential that you know that you can get 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 making an appointment. Many people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud sound.
You can get help so call us.