You might assume that people with hearing loss would be less bothered by loud noises than those with normal hearing. However, this is not the case. In fact, many people with hearing loss actually perceive loud noises as more intense or startling than they did before they experienced hearing loss.
This may sound odd, but it is a phenomenon known as recruitment, which causes people with hearing loss to perceive loud noises as even more intense than they actually are.
How Recruitment Works
Hearing loss occurs when hair cells in your inner ear begin to degrade, either due to age or other factors like noise. However, not all hair cells start to degrade at the same time. So even though some hair cells are degraded enough to cause hearing loss, others remain healthy and retain the ability to detect sound waves.
Once a certain volume is reached, the healthy cells are “recruited” in place of the dying hair cells and can respond quickly and strongly to the sound. This intense response is often startling and uncomfortable for those who experience it.
This is why you might struggle to hear your server listing the specials at Duke’s Seafood, but when someone shouts your name to get your attention, it can seem overly loud and startling.
Is it Recruitment or Something Else?
There are a couple other conditions that are similar to recruitment, including:
- Hyperacusis- A debilitating condition where sounds are perceived as abnormally loud and painful. Recruitment is jarring, but not painful. Another difference is that while recruitment is a condition seen only in people with hearing loss, hyperacusis can occur with or without hearing loss.
- Misophonia– Characterized as an intense dislike of specific sounds, like a person chewing or clearing their throat. While people who experience misophonia report feelings of extreme discomfort when hearing certain sounds, the cause is unknown and does not seem to be related to hearing or hearing loss.
How Hearing Aids Help
If you experience recruitment, the best way to treat the problem is to make an appointment with a hearing specialist as soon as possible. If you have never been treated for hearing loss before they can test your hearing and fit you with hearing aids that are personalized to meet your needs. Your audiologist can program your hearing aids to compress sounds in the specific range that seems to bother you. If you already have hearing aids, they can make adjustments to help minimize your recruitment symptoms.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing aid expert, call Evergreen Speech & Hearing Inc today.