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

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, inside volume level, so you get nothing. You try saying Greg’s name a little louder and still nothing. So finally, you shout.

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

It’s not just stubbornness and irritability that cause this situation. Hypersensitivity to loud sound is frequently reported in those with hearing loss. So it seems logical that Greg gets aggravated 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?

So, hearing loss can be sort of peculiar. The majority of time, you’ll hear less and less, especially if your hearing loss goes untreated. 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 somebody yelling to get your attention or one of the explosions in the latest Transformers movie, it just becomes really loud really fast.

And you’ll wonder why you have this sensitivity to loud noise.

Which can also make you feel a bit aggravated, honestly. Many individuals will feel like they’re going mad when they experience this. They have a hard time determining how loud things are. Imagine, all of your family, friends, 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.

Auditory recruitment

The cause of this sound sensitivity is a condition known as auditory recruitment. this is how it works:

  • There are tiny hairs, called stereocilia, that cover the inside of your ear. When soundwaves enter your ears, these hairs resonate and your brain converts that signal into sounds.
  • Damage to these hairs is what produces age-related sensorineural hearing loss. Loud sounds can damage the hairs over time, and once they are injured, they never heal. Your hearing becomes more muffled as a result. Your degree of hearing loss will be progressively more severe the more hairs that are damaged.
  • But this is not an evenly occurring process. There is always some mixture of damaged hairs and healthy hairs.
  • So when the damaged hairs are exposed to a loud noise, the healthy hairs are “recruited” (hence the condition’s name) to send a message of alarm to your brain. All of a sudden, all of the stereocilia fire, and everything gets really loud.

Think about it like this: That Michael Bay explosion is loud while everything else is quiet. So the Michael Bay explosion will seem louder (and more obnoxious) than it otherwise would!

Isn’t that the same as hyperacusis?

You might think that these symptoms sound a little familiar. There is a condition called hyperacusis that has comparable symptoms and the two are often confused. At first glance, this confusion is understandable. Both conditions can cause sounds to get really loud all of a sudden.

But there are some key differences:

  • While hyperacusis has no connection to hearing loss, there is a direct connection between auditory recruitment and hearing loss.
  • Noises that are normal objectively will sound very loud for someone who has hyperacusis. Think about it like this: When you’re experiencing auditory recruitment, a shout sounds like a shout; but when you have hyperacusis, a whisper might sound like a shout.
  • Hyperacusis comes with pain. Literally. Feeling pain is common for individuals with hyperacusis. With auditory recruitment, that’s typically not the case.

Overall, auditory recruitment and hyperacusis have a few superficially similar symptoms. But they are entirely different conditions.

Can auditory recruitment be treated?

Here’s the bad news, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Your hearing will never return once it goes. Treatment of hearing loss can largely prevent this.

The same is true of auditory recruitment. Luckily, there are ways to successfully address auditory recruitment. In most cases, that treatment will include hearing aids. And there’s a specific calibration for those hearing aids. That’s why treating auditory recruitment will almost always require making an appointment with us.

We’ll be able to identify the specific wavelengths of sound that are causing your auditory recruitment symptoms. Then your hearing aids will be dialed in to reduce the volume of those frequencies. It’s a very effective treatment.

Effective treatment will only be accomplished with certain 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.

Schedule an appointment with us

If you are noticing sensitivity to loud sounds, it’s important to recognize that you can get relief. The bonus is that your new hearing aid will make everything sound better.

But scheduling an appointment is the first step. Lots of people who have hearing loss deal with hypersensitivity to loud noise.

You can get help so call us.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment

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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