Age-related hearing loss, which concerns many adults at some point, will become lateral, simply put, it affects both ears to some extent. As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as a binary — either someone has average hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on each side, but that ignores one form of hearing loss completely.
A 1998 study thought that approximately 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 Makes It?
As its name implies, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing only in one ear.In intense instances, profound deafness is possible. The dysfunctional ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that individual is left with monaural audio quality — their hearing is limited to a side of the human body.
Reasons for premature hearing loss vary. It can be caused by trauma, for instance, someone standing beside a gun fire on the left may end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to the problem, as well, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, an individual who has unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Direction of the Sound
The mind uses the ears nearly just like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it initially and in the highest volume.
With the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what way it comes from. In case you have hearing in the left ear, then your mind will turn to look for the noise even when the person speaking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be like. The sound would always enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where an individual speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound management is catchy.
Honing in on Audio
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the noise you wish to concentrate on, to listen to a voice. The other ear manages the background sounds. That is why at a noisy restaurant, you can still concentrate on the conversation at the dining table.
Without that tool, the brain gets confused. It’s not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that is all you hear.
The brain has a lot going on at any one time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That is why you’re able to sit and examine your social media account whilst watching TV or talking with family. With just one working ear, the brain loses the ability to do one thing while listening. It has to 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 Effect
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the head and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not endure the journey.
If you are standing beside a person having a high pitched voice, you might not understand what they say unless you turn so the working ear is facing them. On the flip side, you may hear somebody with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves which make it to either ear.
Individuals with just slight hearing loss in only one ear tend to adapt. They learn quickly to turn their head a certain way to hear a friend talk, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that yields their lateral hearing.