You know that it can be difficult to get your partner’s attention if they have untreated hearing loss. 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 raising 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 recognition of his comedic timing and says crossly, “why are you shouting?”
This situation isn’t due to stubbornness or impatience. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently documented in those with hearing loss. And this sensitivity to loud noises can help explain why Greg doesn’t hear his name at a normal volume but gets cranky when you shout at him.
Can loud sounds seem louder with hearing loss?
So, hearing loss is kind of curious. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, particularly if your hearing loss goes unaddressed. But things can get really loud when you’re out at a packed restaurant or watching a Michael Bay movie. Uncomfortably loud. Maybe it’s someone 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 wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.
Which can also make you feel a little cranky, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they experience this. That’s because they can’t determine how loud anything is. Imagine, all of your friends, family, and acquaintances seem to validate you’re losing your ability to hear, but you have this sudden sensitivity to loud sound. It feels like a contradiction.
A condition called auditory recruitment can trigger these symptoms. this is how it works:
- There are little hairs, known as stereocilia, covering the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
- Damage to these hairs is what brings about age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can degrade the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they are unable to heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. Your level of hearing loss will be increasingly more severe the more hairs that are damaged.
- But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
- So when the damaged 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 gets really loud because all of your stereocilia are firing (just as they would with any other loud sound).
Think about it this way: everything is quiet except for the Michael Bay explosion. So the Michael Bay explosion is going to seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!
Sounds like hyperacusis
You may think that these symptoms sound a bit familiar. That’s most likely because they’re typically confused with a condition known as hyperacusis. That confusion is, initially, understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud all of a sudden.
But here are a few considerable differences:
- While hyperacusis has no link to hearing loss, there is a direct link between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
- When you have hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively ordinary volume seem really loud to you. Think about it this way: When you have auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but a whisper can sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
- Hyperacusis is painful. Literally. Feeling pain is common for people with hyperacusis. That’s not necessarily the case with auditory recruitment.
It’s true that hyperacusis and auditory recruitment have a few similar symptoms. But they are entirely different conditions.
Can auditory recruitment be managed?
There isn’t any cure for hearing loss and that’s the bad news. Once your hearing goes, it’s gone. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to protect against this.
This also applies to auditory recruitment. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively manage auditory recruitment. Usually, hearing aids are part of that treatment. And those hearing aids have to be specially calibrated. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will almost always require scheduling an appointment with us.
We’ll be able to determine the specific wavelengths of sound that are responsible for your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower the volume of those wavelengths. It’s kind 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 communicate here).
Only certain types of hearing aid will be effective. Over-the-counter hearing aids or sound amplifiers, for instance, do not have the necessary technological sophistication and built-in sensitivity, so they will not be able to deal with your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with us
If you are noticing sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to realize that you can find relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.
But it all starts by making an appointment. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.
It doesn’t need to keep making you miserable.