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Why Do Some Sounds Hurt? (With and Without Hearing Loss)

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Want to reduce your sensitivity to sounds? Find out how!

You can probably relate to how terrible some noises can be if you’ve ever shivered at the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Naturally, some individuals are more sensitive to sound than others. While most people react unfavourably to loud noises or harsh sounds, some people find common sounds to be too much to handle.

Both those with hearing loss and those with normal hearing might have sound sensitivity. However, those who have specific types of hearing loss, such as sensorineural or age-related hearing loss, are more likely to experience it. Additionally, sufferers of tinnitus or ringing in the ears may also have hypersensitive hearing.

It’s crucial to comprehend the many sorts of sound sensitivity in order to counteract the unpleasant effects of sounds that hurt. You can take action to fix the problem and improve your auditory experiences if you know why you have hypersensitive hearing.

Different Types of Sound Sensitivity

1.Loud noises

Normally, extremely loud noises will make those with normal hearing uncomfortable. It is well known that noises between 2,000 and 5,000 Hz are very challenging to hear. This is due to two factors.

First of all, exposure to loud noises impairs our ability to hear. Actually, anything louder than 85 dB may result in hearing damage. It makes sense that humans perceive loud sounds as unpleasant noise because they harm our ears’ neurons, membranes, and hair cells. We are more likely to change environments or turn down the volume since these sounds make us feel so uncomfortable, shielding our hearing from being exposed to the loud noises.

Second, research has demonstrated that high-pitched sounds, particularly those with a frequency range of 2,000 to 5,000 Hz, alter how our brains function. Although the exact reason for this is unknown, imaging studies have shown that when we hear noises at this volume, a certain area of the brain—the amygdala—becomes activated. Since the amygdala controls our emotional responses, it may help to understand why these loud noises make us feel uneasy, afraid, or even panicked.


Noises between 85 and 95 dB can be tolerated by people with normal hearing function before they become sensitive. But in cases of hyperacusis, the person’s tolerance for noise is reduced. In other words, their Loudness Discomfort Levels (LDLs) are significantly lower than the norm.

Fortunately, using hearing aids can help alleviate hyperacusis. Pink noise-producing hearing aids serve as masking tools, reducing the impact of background noise and commonplace noises. Hearing aids with pink noise generators that have been appropriately calibrated can greatly lessen the symptoms of hyperacusis by lowering your sensitivity to sound.


People with a known hearing loss are typically affected by this form of sound sensitivity. The nerves, membranes, and hair cells are frequently harmed when your hearing is diminished. What pitches and frequencies you are unable to hear will depend on the nature and severity of the impairment.

Due to hearing loss, you are unable to hear sounds that have a specific pitch or frequency when exposed to them. However, if they are made louder, you will ultimately hear them change to a different pitch or frequency. It may help to understand why patients with hearing loss frequently experience heightened sensitivity to sounds because of this abrupt exposure to noise.

The hair cells nearest to the injured cells are “recruited” when the sound intensity increases. Your hearing function for this particular pitch or frequency is normal if these cells are unharmed. For instance, a television may be too loud for you to hear at volume levels of 30 to 45, but at 46, it becomes unbearably loud. This is due to the fact that the volume between 30 and 45 would typically be picked up by damaged hair cells, but at 46, the following hair cells are recruited: You may suddenly hear the television at volume level 46, which is so loud that it’s painful to listen to, with no hearing loss affecting the recruited hearing cells.

This kind of sound sensitivity can be significantly increased by using hearing aids. There won’t be a sharp transition between being unable to hear anything and being exposed to extremely loud noise because wearing hearing aids will significantly improve your hearing function. Additionally, treating sound sensitivity linked to hearing loss may be helped by wearing a hearing aid that produces pink noise.

4.Hypersensitive hearing

Some folks are just hypersensitive to certain sounds by nature. Although this varies from person to person, most people are only hypersensitive to sounds that are above a specific frequency. Even common sounds and background noise might be exceedingly upsetting, depending on the degree of hypersensitivity.

Although it can occur alone, heightened hearing can occasionally be experienced by people with autism. However, a person’s hypersensitivity can be diminished with auditory integration therapy, allowing them to accept sounds without having a negative reaction.


People with misophonia have an intense dislike of sound. Unlike other sound sensitivities, misophonia isn’t limited to loud or high-pitched. In fact, soft sounds can often be the most common triggers for people with misophonia. Sound therapy is often used to treat misophonia, although some people find that masking devices and white noise can help them to cope with exposure to noise more effectively.

Treating Sensitivity to Sounds

As you can see, there are several reasons why people have sensitive hearing. It’s crucial to get guidance from a trained hearing care practitioner to make sure your sensitivity is handled properly. For instance, you can get a thorough diagnostic and learn the precise cause of your hearing sensitivity by speaking with an audiologist.

Despite the fact that hearing loss is incurable, you can save your hearing by wearing hearing protection. Wearing the correct hearing aids can reduce your sensitivity to sounds and enhance your hearing function if you already have permanent hearing loss.

Importantly, this knowledge will make it possible for you to get the care you need. Your auditory experience can be improved by working with the correct hearing care specialist, regardless of what is causing your increased sensitivity to sound.