The relationship between threshold of discomfort (TD) estimates and the number of components in a complex signal has been investigated. The thresholds of discomfort were first obtained for 16 pure tones located at the center frequency of critical bands from 250 to 4000 Hz. Subsequently, thresholds of discomfort were obtained for 2, 4, 8, and 16 tone complexes. The pure‐tone components of the complexes were systematically selected from the same 16 pure tones. For each subject, the relative intensities of the components in the four complexes were determined in such a way so as to parallel the pure tone TD contour obtained for that subject. Data were obtained from 15 normal and 15 hearing impaired adults. The individuals in the latter group all had mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Summation of discomfort (S) was defined as the difference between the threshold of discomfort for a pure tone presented in isolation and within the complex. The two groups demonstrated different summation values. For both groups, however, the summation was shown to be a linear function of the logarithm of the number of components in the complex: S=a+b log (n) where n is the number of components (2, 4, 8, 16). For the normal hearing group, a and b are 2.05 and 11.51, respectively, while for the hearing impaired group, they are 3.95 and 12.88, respectively. While the future digital hearing aids can easily regulate their limiting levels so as to accurately account for this summation, present day hearing aids may underestimate this effect. However, given current clinical practices (which somewhat underestimate the pure‐tone TD) this is probably not the case.