You know that it can be a challenge to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a regular, indoor volume level, so you get no reply. You try raising your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t respond. So you resort to shouting.
Well this time Greg hears you and grouchily asks what you’re shouting for.
This situation isn’t the result of stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is often documented in those with hearing loss. So it seems logical that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he repeatedly fails to hear you when you speak to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds 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 every now and then, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be having dinner in a restaurant, and things will get really loud. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s somebody yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the newest Transformers movie, it just gets really loud really fast.
And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little aggravated, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they notice this. They have a hard time identifying 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 cause these symptoms. Here’s how it works:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs known as stereocilia. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Age-related “sensorineural” hearing loss occurs as these hairs deteriorate. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are damaged, they never heal. As a result, your hearing becomes less sensitive. Your degree 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, suddenly, everything gets very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud noise).
Think about it this way: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Isn’t that exactly like hyperacusis?
Those symptoms might sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable 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 here are some significant differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly related to hearing loss. Auditory recruitment absolutely is.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively normal volume seem very loud to you. Think about it like this: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals who have hyperacusis. That’s not necessarily the case with auditory recruitment.
Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are entirely different conditions.
Is there any way to treat audio recruitment?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Your hearing will never return once it goes. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.
This also is true for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. Usually, hearing aids are at the center of that treatment. And those hearing aids need to be specially calibrated. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to identify the particular wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to reduce the volume of those wavelengths. It’s a very effective treatment.
Successful treatment can only work with specific types of hearing aids. 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 deal with your symptoms.
Reach out to us for an appointment
It’s essential that you recognize 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 making an appointment is the first step. This hypersensitivity is a natural part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
You can get help so call us.