Most people do not like loud noise. But people with loudness discomfort have particularly sensitive ears and cannot tolerate ordinary levels of noise.
Hyper sensitive hearing is most commonly associated with hearing loss. Many of us have experienced how old people ask you to speak up a bit and then after a short while, they will say something like "don´t shout! I´m not deaf".
Loudness discomfort is typically a problem for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss, whereas it is not a problem for people who suffer from conductive hearing loss.
As a you grow older, the number of hair cells and nerve fibres that are responsible for picking up sounds in the inner ear is reduced. The ability to grade different intensities of sound is also impaired. To compensate for this, you will often "switch on" all remaining nerve fibres to produce almost maximum loudness. As a result, even quite moderate sounds may seem to be unbearably loud.
The dynamic range is narrowed or reduced in the ears: If sounds are heard at all, they are heard as very loud noises.
When a person suffers from hearing loss and needs to use hearing aids, the hearing aids should not overload the ear with amplified sound. Many hearing aids have "peak clipping". Another more sophisticated form of compression is known as automatic volume control.
Recent research has shown that in many cases the use of white noise applied to the ear by a white noise generator masker can help. This is particularly true for those people with normal or almost normal hearing.
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