The Special Difficulties of Single Sided Deafness

Man suffering from single-sided hearing loss is only experiencing one half of the world because he can't hear the other.

Age-related hearing loss, which concerns most adults sooner or later, tends to become lateral, to put it simply, it affects both ears to some degree. Because of this, the average person sees hearing loss as a binary — either someone has healthy hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that dismisses one particular kind of hearing loss completely.

A 1998 research estimated around 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say that amount has increased in that past two decades. The truth is single-sided hearing loss does happen and it brings with it unique challenges.

What is Single-Sided hearing loss and What Causes It?

As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing just in one ear. The hearing loss may be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme instances, profound deafness is potential. The dysfunctional ear is incapable of hearing at all and that person is left with monaural sound quality — their hearing is limited to one side of their body.

Causes of unilateral hearing loss differ. It can be the result of trauma, for example, someone standing next to a gun firing on the left might end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to this problem, too, such as:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Measles
  • Microtia
  • Meningitis
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Mumps
  • Mastoiditis

No matter the origin, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.

Direction of the Audio

The brain utilizes the ears nearly just like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on which ear registers it initially and at the highest volume.

Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what way it originates. In case you have hearing from the left ear, your mind will turn left to search for the sound even when the person talking is on the right.

Think for a minute what that would be similar to. The audio would always enter one side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound direction is catchy.

Focusing on Sound

The mind also employs the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear handles the background noises. This is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, you may still focus on the conversation at the dining table.

When you don’t have that tool, the brain becomes confused. It’s not able to filter out background sounds like a fan blowing, so that’s everything you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The brain has a lot happening at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s why you’re able to sit and read your social media account whilst watching Netflix or having a conversation. With just one functioning ear, the mind loses the ability to do something when listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, so you usually miss out on the conversation taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Impact

The head shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are unavailable to a person with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not survive the trek.

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 other hand, you may hear someone having a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves which make it to either ear.

Individuals with only minor hearing loss in only one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a buddy speak, for instance. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work round that yields their lateral hearing to them.

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