HEARING TIPS

A young woman by the window bothered by the loud construction work outside.

If you have a partner with neglected hearing loss, you realize that getting their attention can be… a problem. First, you try to use their name. “Greg”, you say, but you used a normal, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still no reply. So finally, you shout.

And that’s when Greg spins around with absolutely no appreciation of his comedic timing and says grouchily, “what are you shouting for?”

This situation 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 cranky when you shout at him.

Can hearing loss make loud sounds even worse?

So, hearing loss is sort of peculiar. Typical, hearing loss will cause your hearing to decline, particularly if it goes untreated. But every once in a while, you’ll watch a Michael Bay movie, or be talking with someone, or be eating in a restaurant, and things will get really noisy. So loud that it can get uncomfortable. Maybe it’s someone shouting to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers film, it just gets really loud really fast.

And you’ll think: Why am I so sensitive to loud noise?

Which can, honestly, put you in an irritable mood. Many individuals who experience this will feel like they’re going crazy. They have a hard time identifying how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, 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.

Auditory recruitment

The cause of this noise sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. It works like this:

  • There are tiny hairs, known as stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter into your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain translates that signal into sounds.
  • Deterioration of these hairs is what causes age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. Your hearing becomes duller as a result. The more damaged hairs you have, the less you’re able to hear.
  • But this is not an evenly occurring process. There will be a mixture of healthy and damaged hairs.
  • So when the impaired hairs are exposed to a loud noise, 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: everything is silent except for the Michael Bay explosion. So it will seem louder, when that Michael Bay explosion occurs, than it normally would.

Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?

You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. That’s probably because they’re typically confused with a condition called hyperacusis. At first glance, this confusion is easy to understand. Both conditions can cause sounds to get very loud all of a sudden.

But there are some key differences:

  • While hyperacusis has no link to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
  • When you’re dealing with hyperacusis, noises that are at an objectively normal volume seem extremely loud to you. Think about it this way: A shout will still sound like a shout with auditory recruitment; but a whisper could sound like a shout for those who have hyperacusis.
  • Hyperacusis causes pain. Literally. Most people who cope with hyperacusis report feeling pain. That’s not always the case with auditory recruitment.

Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have some superficially similar symptoms. But they are very different conditions.

Is there any treatment for audio recruitment?

The bad news is that there’s no cure for hearing loss. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Treating hearing loss early will go a long way to prevent this.

The same is true of auditory recruitment. But here’s the good news, auditory recruitment can be treated successfully. In most situations, that treatment will involve hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why addressing auditory recruitment will almost always require making an appointment with us.

The exact frequencies of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment will be identified. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to lower the volume of those wavelengths. It’s sort of like magic, but it’s using science and technology (so, not really like magic at all, but it works really effectively is what we’re trying to convey here).

Successful treatment will only work with specific types of hearing aids. The symptoms can’t be managed with over-the-counter hearing devices because they lack the technological sophistication.

Schedule an appointment with us

If you are suffering from sensitivity to loud noises, it’s important to know that you can find relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound clearer.

But it all begins by making an appointment. This hypersensitivity is a typical part of the hearing loss process, it happens to lots and lots of people.

You can get help so call us.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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