Unilateral hearing loss, or single sided deafness, is much more common than people realize, notably in children.Because of this, the average person sees hearing loss as being binary — someone has typical hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one form of hearing loss altogether.
A 1998 research thought that around 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It is safe to say that number has gone up in that past two decades. The truth is single-sided hearing loss does happen and it brings with it complications.
What is Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Causes It?
As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing just in one ear.In extreme instances, profound deafness is potential. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that person is left with monaural audio quality — their hearing is limited to one side of their human body.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It may be caused by trauma, for instance, a person standing next to a gun fire on the left might get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to the problem, too, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the cause, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Direction of the Audio
The mind utilizes the ears almost just like a compass. It defines the direction of sound based on which ear registers it first and at the highest volume. When a person speaks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that way.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what direction it comes from. If you have hearing in the left ear, then your mind will turn left to look for the sound even if the person talking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be like. The audio would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where a person talking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t deep, sound direction is tricky.
Honing in on Sound
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one closest to the noise you wish to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. That is why in a noisy restaurant, so you may still focus on the dialogue at the dining table.
Without that tool, the brain gets confused. It’s not able to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that’s everything you hear.
The mind has a lot happening at any one time but having 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 only one working ear, the brain loses the ability to do one thing while listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually lose out on the dialogue taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so they bend enough to wrap round the head and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not survive the journey.
If you’re standing next to an individual with a high pitched voice, then you might not understand what they say unless you turn so the working ear is on their side. On the flip side, you may hear somebody having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they create longer sound waves that make it into either ear.
People with just slight hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to adapt. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a buddy talk, for instance. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that returns their lateral hearing.