Typical occurrences

Imagine you’re watching a video on YouTube but you can barely hear the speaker, so you crank up the volume. After the video you switch to your music player application to liste to your favorite band. Since you've increased the volume all the way, you ears are about to get blasted by your music (and probably your neighbors too).

Occasionally this also happens within one piece of media without interaction from the user. Think of a war movie that suddenly scales the loudness from a quiet conversation to a full blown combat screne.

It's also done on purporse, e.g. many commercials are intentionally louder than the shows they interrupt to grab the viewers' intention.


This happens because different audio sources are not normalized to use the same average or peak loudness. Different applications can also have different volume levels that are not normally synchronized.

What do you call it?

Now I'm looking for words that describe either of the following phenomena:

  1. [technical] the involuntary and enormous change in loudness caused by switching the input source (especially for an increase in volume)
  2. [psychological] the temporaryy shock that the listener suffers from such a harsh increase in loudness

Similar but not quite the same

The medical term audio shock is used when someone is traumatized by loud sounds and suffers serious and persistent consequences such as loss of hearing, vertigo, depression, etc. Regarding the psychological dimension, I'm rather looking for a word that describes the temporary "Man, that was loud!" effect.


Personally, I made up the word "audio bomb" and "volume switch shock" to refer to those moments. Any better words?

  • 2
    In technical jargon it's a "transient", or perhaps "switching transient".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 22:29
  • 1
    There's no word for that. Why do people need words for the obscurest of ideas?
    – user180089
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 22:58
  • 1
    The 80s called, they want their question back: voltage spike
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 23:32
  • Ever since I blew out a sliding glass door (actually, Diane Bish did, playing the Notre Dame organ) in North Dakota, in January, I jokingly call it the joy of music. Damn those 32Hz pipes. @Mazura yep, '89. SAE Mark 2600 driving custom DQ-10s.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 4:43

2 Answers 2


I would suggest:

(1) input gain mismatch or input gain shift. Since this is describing the technical aspect, the effect is caused by either of:

  1. Switching to an input source with a different impedance, or pre-amp level output. The final amplification has no way to discern the amplitude increase that will result. Also contrinuting to this is that [now obsolete] mechanical contacts will arc as they seperate creating an input voltage spike "pop".

  2. Variations in the headroom of recorded material. All analog signals are recorded to a scaled reference ranging from -infinity decibles to 0 decibels, with 0 dB being the "loudest". That is loudest in proportion to the amplifiers capability before going into saturation, or overshooting (+dB) the maximum capability of the amplifier to reproduce and amplify without distortion. A great recording should get close to 0dB headroom only on its loudest peak moments. Without care, another recording might have lots, or perhaps too much headroom, which will be distortion free, but have a limited dynamic range (difference bewtween the quitest and loudest passages)

(2) startled : cause (a person or animal) to feel sudden shock or alarm. "a sudden sound in the doorway startled her"

  • 1
    I toyed with "DC shift" for a while before I gave that up. I didn't think that was what the OP was looking for. mechanical contacts arcing : voltage spike "pop" +1. I still don't think that's what the OP is after, but it fits the title. IMO, they answered the rest of it themselves with normalized.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 5:34
  • 1
    @Mazura - absolutely, I noticed that too. So perhaps the answer should have been "Non-normalized Amplitude Surprise To You" [NASTY] . . .
    – SteveRacer
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 1:09

If the tinnitus goes away and hearing seems to come back, this is called a temporary threshold shift. Some permanent damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear has probably occurred from the noise trauma, so it is important that you prevent further injury from noise exposure. –american-hearing.org/disorders/tinnitus/

Definition of temporary threshold shift

A temporary threshold shift is a temporary shift in the auditory threshold. It may occur suddenly after exposure to a high level of noise, a situation in which most people experience reduced hearing. A temporary threshold shift results in temporary hearing loss.

People who experience a temporary threshold shift may often also experience temporary tinnitus. –hear-it.org/temporary-threshold-shift

I'm rather looking for a word that describes the temporary "Man, that was loud!" effect. - WHAT? Sorry, my ears are still ringing...

  • Perhaps the DVer could explain to me how this isn't a good fit for, #2: [psychological] the temporary shock that the listener suffers from such a harsh increase in loudness
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 5:55

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