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.As a result, the public sees hearing loss as being black and white — someone has normal hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one particular kind of hearing loss completely.

A 1998 study estimated approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say that amount has gone up in that past two decades.

What’s Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?

As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing just in one ear.In extreme cases, deep deafness is possible. The dysfunctional ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that individual is left with monaural sound quality — their hearing is limited to a side of the human body.

Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It can be caused by trauma, for example, a person standing next to a gun firing on the left might end up with profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder may lead to the issue, too, such as:

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

No matter the cause, an individual who has unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different way of processing audio.

Management of the Audio

The mind utilizes the ears nearly just like a compass. It defines the direction of sound based on which ear registers it first and at the maximum volume. When a person talks 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 will only come in one ear regardless of what way it originates. If you have hearing from the left ear, your mind will turn to search for the sound even when the person speaking is on the right.

Pause for a minute and consider what that would be similar to. The sound would enter one side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound direction is tricky.

Focusing on Sound

The brain also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one closest to the noise that you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. The other ear manages the background noises. This is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, so you can still concentrate on the conversation at the dining table.

Without that tool, the mind gets confused. It is not able to filter out background sounds like a fan blowing, so that is everything you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The brain has a lot going on at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s the reason you can sit and read your social media account while watching TV or talking with family. With just one functioning ear, the brain loses the ability to do something when listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you tend to lose out on the conversation taking place without you while you browse your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Effect

The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to a person having 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 don’t endure the trek.

If you are standing next to a person with a high pitched voice, then you might not know what they say unless you flip so the good ear is on their side. On the flip side, you may hear somebody having a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they are on because they create longer sound waves that make it into either ear.

Individuals with just minor hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to adapt. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a friend speak, for example. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that returns their lateral hearing to them.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC