Why Do Loud Sounds Hurt?

The most commonly acknowledged effect of hearing loss is a decrease in a person’s ability to hear. That’s what hearing loss is, after all. However, there are many other ways hearing loss has a direct impact upon our hearing and our lives; from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) to psychological effects, such as depression or isolation. And sometimes, when we have hearing loss, not only do soft sounds become inaudible, but loud sounds can become intolerable or painful.

Think of your hearing as a range of acceptable sounds. When your hearing is normal, you can hear from a very soft range (such as 0 dB) to a very loud range (100 dB) fairly comfortably. As we lose our hearing, those soft sounds become harder to hear, decreasing that range. However, sensitivity to sound is not the only thing impaired. When hearing loss occurs, certain mechanisms within the hearing system that help compress loud sounds so they do not hurt are also damaged. This means that the loudest sound you can hear comfortably also decreases. Therefore, the range you originally had with normal hearing decreases from both sides of the spectrum.

Many people become concerned that hearing aids that can assist in making those soft sounds audible will also make things way too loud. However, hearing aids can be adjusted to fit your specific needs. If sounds seem to way to loud, this range is taken into account in order to truly customize your hearing aids to what it is that you need, and help you to enjoy hearing once again.