Hearing loss can affect your life in a massive range of ways, some of which you would probably never consider before you experience them. The one that seems to catch most people off-guard is a sudden increase in sound sensitivity which can cause discomfort and pain.
While it might seem strange that losing your hearing can leave you more sensitive to louder sounds it is actually incredibly common in people with hearing difficulties
The most common form of hearing loss is known as sensorineural hearing loss. This is a wide term that covers hearing loss due to damage to either the nerve pathways that connect your inner ear and your brain or the stereocilia (the small hair cells in the inner ear) that detect sound waves.
The cause of sensitivity to loud sounds is most frequently related to the degradation of the hair cells in the inner ear. As they degrade and slowly become less capable they stop reacting to sound waves correctly which causes hearing loss. This is a gradual process as the hair cells in your ear won’t all stop performing in one go or even to the same degree, leaving you with some cells picking up sound normally and others not picking anything up at all. As a noise gets louder your working cells can find themselves getting “recruited” to cover for the cells that no longer function, and frequently they react strongly and suddenly. It’s this forceful reaction that can leave you in pain.
This happens frequently when suffering from hearing loss owing to the nature of the condition. If you suffer from hearing loss you’ll often find people will struggle to get your attention if they talk at a regular level. In order to make sure you can hear them they increase the volume that they’re speaking at, getting louder and louder until your hair cells that are still active react causing a sharp pain as you suddenly hear the other person shouting at you.
A lot of the discomfort that recruitment causes is based on the perceived suddenness of the loud noise coupled with the increased sensitivity to the decibel range that activates your healthy cells. Often simply using a high-quality hearing aid, especially one with compression, can solve the problem, at least to a comfortable degree.
Hyperacusis is a condition that leaves you with a reduced threshold to discomfort from sounds. In some cases, normal environmental noise becomes almost intolerably loud resulting in a large amount of discomfort in everyday situations.
While not directly related to hearing loss, hyperacusis is commonly caused by trauma to the inner ear so can be found in a number of cases where hearing loss is also present. It can even affect people who are suffering from recruitment, increasing the discomfort of the two conditions exponentially.
The treatments for hyperacusis relies on the application of broadband (pink) noise, either through special hearing aids or through regular headphones.
Whatever the cause of your increased sound sensitivity your first move should be to discuss your problems with a qualified hearing care provider. They will test for exactly what the cause of your discomfort is and advise you on the best way to proceed. At Come Hear Hearing Center, our hearing healthcare professionals would be happy to help. Book a hearing assessment today by calling the team on (864) 546-5708. You can also click here to request an appointment online.