Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

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

Single-sided deafness, or unilateral hearing loss, is more common than people realize, prominently in kids. Age-related hearing loss, which affects many adults sooner or later, tends to be lateral, simply put, it affects both ears to some degree. Because of this, the average person sees hearing loss as being binary — somebody has typical hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that dismisses one kind of hearing loss completely.

A 1998 research thought that approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease at the time. It is safe to say this amount has gone up in that past two decades. The fact is single-sided hearing loss does occur and it brings with it it’s own problems.

What is Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Causes It?

As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a reduction in hearing just in one ear.In intense instances, deep deafness is possible.

Causes of unilateral hearing loss differ. It can be the result of injury, for example, a person standing next to a gun firing on the left may get moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to the issue, as well, such as:

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

Whatever the origin, a person with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different way of processing sound.

Direction of the Audio

The brain uses the ears almost just like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on what ear registers it first and at the maximum 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 direction it comes from. If you have hearing from the left ear, your mind 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 audio would always enter 1 side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person talking to you personally 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 nearest to the sound that you wish to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. The other ear manages the background noises. That is why in a noisy restaurant, so you may still concentrate on the dialogue at the dining table.

When you don’t have that tool, the brain gets confused. It is unable to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that is all you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The mind has a lot going on at any one time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That’s the reason you’re able to sit and examine your social media account while watching TV or talking with family. With only one functioning ear, the mind loses that ability to do one thing while listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you usually lose out on the conversation taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Effect

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

If you’re standing next to an individual having 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 with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves which make it to either ear.

People with only minor hearing loss in just one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn quickly to turn their mind a certain way to hear a friend speak, for example. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that yields their lateral hearing.

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