Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is much more regular than people realize, notably in kids. Age-related hearing loss, which worries many adults sooner or later, will become lateral, simply put, it affects both ears to a extent. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as being black and white — either somebody has healthy hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that dismisses one kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 research estimated 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 increased in that last 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 Makes It?
As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a decrease in hearing only in one ear. The hearing loss may be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme instances, deep deafness is possible. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that person is left with monaural sound quality — their hearing is limited to one side of the human body.
Reasons for premature hearing loss vary. It may be caused by trauma, for example, someone standing next to a gun firing on the left might get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to this problem, too, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the origin, an individual who has unilateral hearing must adapt to a different way of processing sound.
Direction of the Sound
The mind uses the ears almost like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on which ear registers it initially and at the maximum volume.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear regardless of what way it comes from. In case you have hearing in the left ear, your mind will turn to look for the sound even if the person speaking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be similar to. The audio would enter one side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where a person talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound management is catchy.
Honing in on Sound
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the noise you want to concentrate on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. This is why at a noisy restaurant, you may still focus on the conversation at the dining table.
When you don’t have that tool, the mind gets confused. It’s unable to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that’s all you hear.
The mind has a lot happening at any one time but having two ears allows it to multitask. That’s why you’re able to sit and examine your social media sites while watching Netflix or having a conversation. With only one functioning ear, the brain loses the ability to do one thing when listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, so you usually lose out on the dialogue taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Effect
The head shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are unavailable 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 beside a person with a high pitched voice, then you may not understand what they say if you don’t flip so the good ear is on their side. On the other hand, you might hear someone with a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they are on because they create longer sound waves that make it into either ear.
People with just slight hearing loss in just one ear tend to adapt. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a buddy talk, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that returns their lateral hearing.