Single sided deafness, or unilateral hearing loss, is much more common than people realize, particularly in children. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as a black and white — somebody has typical 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 trauma 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 occur and it brings with it it’s own problems.
What’s Single-Sided hearing loss and What Causes It?
As the name implies, single-sided hearing loss indicates a decrease in hearing just in one ear. The hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme instances, profound deafness is possible.
Reasons for premature hearing loss vary. It may be caused by trauma, for instance, someone standing beside a gunfire on the left may get moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disorder may lead to the problem, too, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the cause, a person with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing sound.
Direction of the Sound
The mind utilizes the ears nearly like a compass. It defines the direction of noise based on which ear registers it first and in the maximum volume. When a person talks to you while standing on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that direction.
With the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what way it comes from. If you have hearing from the left ear, your head will turn left to search for the noise even if the person speaking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be similar to. The sound would enter one side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound direction is catchy.
Focusing on Audio
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one closest to the noise that you wish to focus on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear manages the background sounds. This is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, you may still concentrate on the dialogue at the dining table.
Without that tool, the mind gets confused. It’s not able to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that’s everything you hear.
The Ability to Multitask
The brain has a lot going on at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s the reason you can sit and read your social media sites whilst watching TV or having a conversation. With only one working ear, the brain loses the ability to do something when listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you usually miss out on the dialogue around you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so they bend enough to wrap round the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not endure the journey.
If you’re standing beside an individual having a high pitched voice, then you may not understand what they say unless you flip so the working ear is on their side. On the flip side, you might hear someone with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves which make it into either ear.
Individuals with just minor hearing loss in only one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to listen to a buddy speak, for instance. For those who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that yields their lateral hearing to them.