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. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, inside 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 yelling for.
It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that create this situation. People with hearing loss frequently report hypersensitivity to loud sound. So it makes sense that Greg gets cranky when you shout his name after he continually fails to hear you when you talk to him at a normal volume.
Can hearing loss make loud sounds worse?
Hearing loss can be a strange thing. Usually, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, particularly if it goes untreated. But things can get very loud when you’re out at a crowded restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe the movie gets really loud all of a sudden or somebody is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll wonder why you’re so sensitive to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many individuals who notice this will feel like they’re going mad. They have a hard time determining how loud things are. 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. How is that possible?
The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition called auditory recruitment. It works like this:
- The inside of your ears are covered with tiny hairs called stereocilia. These hairs vibrate when soundwaves enter your ears and this vibration is then translated to sounds by your brain.
- Damage to these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these fragile hairs are permanently damaged by repeated exposure to loud sounds. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There is always some mixture of damaged hairs 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 message of alarm to your brain. So, suddenly, everything is very loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just like 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 is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Sounds a lot like hyperacusis
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has similar symptoms and the two are frequently confused. That confusion is, initially, reasonable. Auditory recruitment is a condition where you have a sensitivity to loud sounds, and hyperacusis is a condition in which sounds very abruptly get loud.
But here are some significant differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by hearing loss. Auditory recruitment certainly is.
- When you’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem really loud to you. Think about it this way: 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 comes with pain. Literally. Most people who experience hyperacusis report feelings of pain. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the situation.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they aren’t the same condition.
Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?
There’s no cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Managing hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can successfully be treated. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a particular calibration for those hearing aids. So it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with us.
The exact frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be determined. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to decrease the volume of those wavelengths. It’s a very effective treatment.
Only certain 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.
Make an appointment with us
It’s essential that you know that you can find relief from your sensitivity to loud noise. You will also get the extra benefit of using a hearing aid to improve your life’s soundscape.
But it all starts by scheduling an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a typical part of the hearing loss process, it happens to many, many people.
It doesn’t need to keep making you miserable.