If you have a partner with untreated hearing loss, you appreciate that getting their attention can be… a challenge. First, you try to say their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, indoor volume level, so you get nothing. You try increasing your volume and saying Greg’s name again but he still doesn’t hear you. So finally, you shout.
And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no awareness of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “what are you shouting for?”
This situation isn’t the result of stubbornness or irritability. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those who have hearing loss. So it makes sense that Greg gets aggravated 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. The vast majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. 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 suddenly gets really loud or someone is shouting to get your attention.
And you’ll think: What’s causing this sensitivity to loud noise?
Which can, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going mad. They have a hard time figuring out how loud things are. Imagine, all of your friends, family, and acquaintances seem to confirm you’re losing your ability to hear, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition known as auditory recruitment can cause these symptoms. this is how it works:
- The interior 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.
- Deterioration of these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Over time, these little hairs are permanently damaged by repeated exposure to loud sounds. Consequently, your hearing becomes less sensitive. The more compromised hairs you have, the less you can hear.
- But this isn’t an evenly occurring process. There is always some combination of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
- So when you hear a loud noise, the impaired hairs “recruit” the healthy hairs (hence the name of the condition) to send an alarmed message to your brain. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything becomes really loud.
Think about it like this: That Michael Bay explosion is loud but everything else is quiet. So it’s going to seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion happens, than it normally would.
Sounds like hyperacusis
Those symptoms may sound a little familiar. That’s probably because they’re often confused with a condition called hyperacusis. That conflation is, initially, understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud all of a sudden.
But there are a few key differences:
- Hyperacusis isn’t directly caused by 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 this way: 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. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. 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.
Can auditory recruitment be treated?
The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never come back once it’s gone. Addressing hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
The same goes for auditory recruitment. But the good news is that auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most situations, that treatment will include hearing aids. And those hearing aids need to be specifically calibrated. So it will be necessary to make an appointment with us.
The precise frequencies of sound that are triggering your auditory recruitment will be determined. Your hearing aids can then be calibrated to reduce that wavelength of sound. It’s a very effective treatment.
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for example, do not have the required 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 recognize that you can get relief from your sensitivity to loud sound. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.
But it all begins by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss cope with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
You can get help so call us.