Hearing Loss And Loud Sounds Are A Bad Combination

“Welcome to Old Lahaina Luau. Have you visited with us before?” the hostess asked as she led us to our table. “Yes, a few years ago,” my husband replied. “Well, you will notice a big difference. “We just installed a new sound and light system which should really enhance your experience,” she told us. “Super,” my family said in unison.

Except for me. I started digging around in my purse for extra earplugs. Sound systems are only heading in one direction and that is louder! I figured we were going to need them.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

The ironic thing about hearing loss is that it often comes with sensitivity to noise. I find loud things very painful. Even things at normal volume can sometimes seem too intense to me, but not to others with more typical hearing. Take the sound of brakes on a bus, or jackhammering at a construction site, or cars honking in traffic. These things seem to bother me more than most people.

Perhaps people are getting immune to all the noise. Loud has become the equivalent to fun in many venues. There are cheering contests at sporting events and deafeningly loud music at weddings and other family celebrations. Not to mention the background music at many restaurants which makes conversation almost impossible. The commotion of city traffic and construction sounds add to the daily barrage of sound we hear each day.

All this noise may be taking a toll on our health. One recent article cites studies showing links between aircraft noise and higher blood pressure, increased risk of heart attacks and even on children’s reading levels and long-term memory. Not to mention our ability to relax. Elevated noise levels have also been associated with higher stress levels.

Back to the luau. My fears were confirmed as the drumming started and the show began. It felt like the narrator was screaming into the microphone, but only because the volume was turned up so high. I switched my hearing aids off, preferring silence over the din, but my family seemed unfazed.

My decibel reader was rocking at 80-85 decibels, so it was not as loud as many sporting events or concert venues, but I found it distasteful. I longed for the luaus of prior years where the performers’ voices and the music from the ukulele and drums drifted like a cool breeze around us, not like a gale force wind blasting everything in its path.

Readers, are you more sensitive than most to loud sounds?

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31 thoughts on “Hearing Loss And Loud Sounds Are A Bad Combination

  1. I too complain about loud sounds because it’s painful. 😔 My hearing loss is only the very high and low ranges (I can no longer hear bird song in the mornings, and my antique heirloom clock’s chimes now seem tinny)…. so I require clarity, not volume (without my hearing aids, it seems like everyone is mumbling). But the most annoying thing is the pain of excessive noise.

  2. You bet, Shari. The “noise equals fun” crowd is indeed running things. The quiet bar/cocktail lounge, the quiet dining venue, the movie theater with “normal” sound levels are practically non-existent. I’m out for a quiet walk at a beautiful office park and farm near here where many people go to exercise in beauty and quiet and without traffic. Three guys with those abominable leaf blowers are “sweeping” the roads with noise that hurt my brain. I was listening to an audio book that was being BlueToothed to my devices and could not hear the reader. Remember the broom? HA! Yes, I am much more sensitive to noise now than ever. Perhaps if I had been more sensitive when younger . . . Well, it’s a thought. We’re creating generations of progressively hearing impaired people who are just trying to have fun – who have bought into the ethic that unless it’s extreme you’re not having fun.

    • Yes, I am very afraid for the next generation. I hope that we can continue to educate them about the importance of ear protection — but it is a challenge for sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I agree Jerry with your comment. Can’t hear people for the noise in my head! I, not only ears, it fills your head !!!!!! full of noise.Had this awful sine is was eleven years old. you can survive it as I am now 82…..
    Shirley Stefanelli

  4. Oh yeah. I have a very low tolerance to loud noise almost to the point that it makes me dizzy . Even in my younger years , hated concerts and nightclubs due to them being dark and painfully loud places . Landscapers are the worst for outdoor noise pollution. Love NYC, but the street noise is unbearable with a hearing aid .And supermarkets that use loudspeakers for announcements.
    And its gotten worse being a woman in my 50s going through those fun changes that come with this age! My ears always just feel more tight and pressurized more now than they did in past. Could maybe be from it being summer and more humidity or just plain water retention. Not fun!

  5. i know what you mean.

    I’ve had many social occasions ruined by loud noise, of any description, in bars and restaurants.

    I also find a contributing factor can be the acoustics in some places.

    On our recent holiday (vacation to those of you across the pond in the USA), the hotel was very modern, but the décor in public areas was “minimalistic” to the point that all the walls and floors were bare, hard surfaces that just made all sound bounce of.

    There were no soft furnishing to absorb loud sounds or dampen them.

    This meant that I had background noise kind of overlayed several times.

    Not a great experience.


      • I’m wondering if normal hearing people can also be very sensitive to loud noises? I rarely see them putting in ear plugs or looking uncomfortable in noisy places.

  6. I have found that most public bathrooms now have a hand dryer rather than paper towels. I have to block my ears any time someone uses it and its still way too loud for me. It can feel embarrassing at times when things are too loud and nobody else is bothered by it.

  7. I have hearing loss in one ear and I’m always turning down my family’s music. I can’t handle much bass either. Why does the music seem loud to me but not to them?

  8. i guess this is also known as hyperacusis. Some Ménière’s sufferers like me have a high sensitivity to noise. But too much protection can lead to more sensitivity. I’m hoping to we can get technology that adapts to our noisy environment. Heating aids are too expensive for most people and even the one I have cannot me adjusted without an appointment to the audiologist. Probably a bad choice to begin with in terms of a product, but I’m hopeful that the new OTC aids will address this point. I tried the new devices by Nuheara at the show. Very cool.

  9. I’m so glad you posted this. I thought I was crazy: needing hearing aids but also sensitive to some noises.

  10. I’m only 17 years old and sometimes I hear sounds to loud
    And when people. Talk I feel like they are yelling and angry
    And it been happening to me since I was a young girl
    Maybe at the age of 10 years old
    And I asked my dad and he said that the same thing
    Happens to him too but until now I do not know what is it
    I would be so glad if you can help to know what is it
    And if it is the same thing in the article because I’m confused
    Thank you

    • Thanks for your question. I think you should go see a qualified ENT doctor who can assess your situation. It is possible that you have some form of hyperacusis, but it is best to have a doctor assess it.

  11. My hearing loss is industrial related from working in a jewelry factory long ago with hammering sound that exceeded 85db. Hammering sound is very hard to assess as most sound meters will truncate (cut off part of) the db peak making, for instance, a 3 millisecond hammer (or gunshot for those who shoot) pulse of noise appear to be (as an example) 84db when in fact it’s 116db. For those who shoot ONLY well placed foam insert-able earplugs PLUS ear muffs offer real protection. (I used to hold COHC cert and have done lots of sound studies.)

    Back to loud sounds being painful, even happy exclamations in the car by my wife can hurt my ears quite a lot. Where I used to work, we’d have emergency drills with loud audible alarms. Everyone would casually walk outside, and there I was with both ears covered with my hands. I came across an older fellow who did the same: “hearing loss?” His answer was: “yup.”

    “The condition can affect children and adults, but is considered rare, occurring in an estimated one in 50,000 people. It can be caused by a number of factors. The most common is related to damage to the cochlea from exposure to loud noises such as those experienced at certain work environments, rock concerts, gunfire, air bag deployment in cars and fireworks.” (search using that if you want the source)

    Sadly, not really much can be done for hyperacusis unless it causes you anxiety. Carry and use well fitting foam earplugs if you must walk 5 minutes during a fire alarm and it hurts. But look at a youtube to learn how to insert them–most get only a fraction of the protection meaning most use foam earplugs wrong.

    Hyperacusis and tinnitus go hand in hand, luckily my tinnitus is not particularly bothersome.

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