Single sided deafness, or unilateral hearing loss, is more regular than people realize, notably in children. Age-related hearing loss, which impacts most adults at some point, tends to be lateral, that is, it affects both ears to a point. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as being binary — either someone has normal hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one kind of hearing loss altogether.
A 1998 study thought that approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It is safe to say that amount has gone up in that past two decades. The fact is single-sided hearing loss does occur and it brings with it complications.
What is Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?
As the name implies, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing just in one ear.In extreme cases, deep deafness is potential.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss differ. It may be caused by injury, for instance, someone standing next to a gun firing on the left may end up with profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder may lead to this problem, too, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the origin, a person with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different way of processing sound.
Direction of the Audio
The brain uses the ears nearly just like a compass. It defines the direction of sound based on what ear registers it first and in the highest volume. When a person talks to you while standing on the left, the brain sends a message to turn in that way.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear regardless of what way it comes from. If you have hearing in the left ear, your head will turn to search for the noise even if the person talking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be like. The sound would enter 1 side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where an individual speaking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound direction is catchy.
Honing in on Sound
The brain also employs the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound that you wish to focus on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear manages the background sounds. That is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, so you may still concentrate on the dialogue at the dining table.
When you can’t use that tool, the mind becomes confused. It’s unable to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that’s everything you hear.
The mind has a lot going on at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That is the reason you can sit and read your social media sites while watching Netflix or talking with family. With just one working ear, the brain loses that ability to do one thing while listening. It has to prioritize between what you see and what you hear, so you tend to lose out on the dialogue around you while you browse your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t survive the journey.
If you’re standing next to a person with a high pitched voice, you might not understand what they say unless you flip so the good ear is facing them. On the other hand, you might hear someone having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves which make it to either ear.
Individuals with just slight hearing loss in just one ear tend to adapt. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to hear a friend talk, for example. For those who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that returns their lateral hearing.