Age-related hearing loss, which concerns most adults at some point, will be lateral, to put it simply, it affects both ears to a degree. As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as being black and white — either someone has healthy hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one particular kind of hearing loss altogether.
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 amount has gone up in that past two decades. The fact is single-sided hearing loss does occur and it brings with it unique challenges.
What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Makes 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 intense cases, deep deafness is potential.
Reasons for premature hearing loss vary. It can be caused by injury, for instance, a person standing next to a gun firing on the left may end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to this issue, as well, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, an individual with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different way of processing sound.
Management of the Sound
The mind uses the ears almost just like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on what ear registers it first and in the highest volume. When a person speaks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that direction.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise is only going to come in one ear no matter what direction it comes from. In case you have hearing from the left ear, your head will turn to look for the sound even when the person speaking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be like. The sound would always enter one side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you understand 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 brain also employs the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear manages the background sounds. This is precisely 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 becomes confused. It is not able to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that’s everything you hear.
The brain has a lot happening at any given time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That is the reason you’re able to sit and examine your social media account whilst watching Netflix or having a conversation. With just one working ear, the mind loses the ability to do something while listening. It must prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you tend to miss out on the conversation around you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The mind shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t endure the journey.
If you are standing next to an individual with a high pitched voice, then you might not understand what they say if you don’t flip so the working ear is on their side. On the flip side, you might hear somebody with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they create longer sound waves which make it into either ear.
Individuals with only slight hearing loss in just one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a friend speak, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that yields their lateral hearing to them.