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Hearing & Balance Doctors is currently open. We are taking special measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including offering a curbside service for hearing aids. Please call 435-688-8991 for more information. Utah: 435-688-8991 | Nevada: 702-896-0031
Hearing & Balance Doctors is currently open. We are taking special measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including offering a curbside service for hearing aids. Please call 435-688-8991 for more information. Utah: 435-688-8991 | Nevada: 702-896-0031

Ask the Audiologist: Why Do Some Sounds Make Me Cringe?

Ask the Audiologist: Why Do Some Sounds Make Me Cringe?

We can all pinpoint sounds that make us cringe or flinch if we hear it, like the squealing of car breaks or chalk scraping on a blackboard. While some people may not visibly cringe, these kinds of sounds always have an impact on those with intact hearing.

So, you may be wondering why some sounds make you cringe and even give you goosebumps when you hear them. As your Southern Utah audiologists, we can reliably say that the instinctual cringe at some sounds is linked to how your brain processes the sound delivered by your auditory system.

Interaction Between Sounds And The Brain

Your auditory system—consisting of the outer, middle, and inner ear—captures and delivers sounds to your auditory nerve, which transmits the sound to the hearing centers of the brain for processing. However, when it comes to unpleasant sounds, other brain structures are triggered, namely, the amygdala.

The Answer? The Amygdala

The amygdala is responsible for processing basic emotions like sadness, fear, and anger. When an unpleasant sound is heard, the amygdala activates and processes the sound, which causes the instinctive cringe and dislike. Researchers have confirmed the amygdala’s role in instinctual cringe, as fMRIs showed the activation of the amygdala.

Acoustically speaking, if you are concerned about sound cringe, sounds that fall in the sound frequency range of 2,000-5,000 Hz, humans perceive the sound as an unpleasant noise.

Tinnitus Has A Similar “Cringe” Effect

Interestingly enough, exterior sounds are not the only ones that can cause a cringe effect. For those with tinnitus—phantom sound only heard by the sufferer, often perceived as a ringing in the ear or other monotone sounds—the amygdala also plays a part in their condition.

While the triggers for tinnitus can be different, for those with moderate-to-severe tinnitus, the amygdala is shown to be active, according to researchers. With the constant activation of the amygdala by tinnitus, stress, anxiety, and depression are common factors.

Those who experience a short burst of cringe-inducing sounds may not suffer depression, but they will often have heightened senses of stress and general anxiety. To help treat the constant cringe and discomfort caused by tinnitus, there are different tinnitus treatments you can explore with our audiologists.

What To Do If Your Sound Tolerance Decreases

For those who have noticed that their ability to tolerate sounds has decreased, it is time to come in for a hearing evaluation with our doctors of audiology. This decrease can flag a number of issues from hearing loss to hyperacusis. However, without a hearing evaluation, our audiologists will not be able to identify the source of your hearing issues.

If you are struggling with your hearing—whether it is overwhelming sounds or hearing loss—our doctors of audiology can help. Please contact us today to set up an appointment, and let Hearing & Balance Doctors help you with all your hearing needs.

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