Age-related hearing loss, which concerns most adults sooner or later, tends to be lateral, that is, it affects both ears to some extent. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as being black and white — either somebody has normal hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on each side, but that ignores one particular form of hearing loss completely.
A 1998 study thought that 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 implies, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing just in one ear. The hearing loss may be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In intense cases, deep deafness is possible.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It can be the result of trauma, for instance, a person standing beside a gun firing on the left may get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to this issue, as well, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the origin, a person with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing sound.
Direction of the Audio
The brain uses the ears nearly like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on which ear registers it initially and in the highest volume.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear regardless of what way it originates. If you have hearing in the left ear, then your head will turn left to look for the sound even when the person talking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be similar to. The sound would enter 1 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 isn’t deep, sound management is tricky.
Focusing on Audio
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound that you wish to focus on, to listen to a voice. The other ear handles the background sounds. That is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, so you may still focus on the conversation at the table.
When you can’t use that tool, the mind gets confused. It is unable to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that is everything 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 read your social media sites whilst watching Netflix or talking with family. With just one working ear, the mind loses the ability to do one thing while listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually lose out on the dialogue taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap round the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not survive the trek.
If you are standing beside a person with a high pitched voice, then you might not know what they say if you don’t flip so the good ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear someone with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they produce longer sound waves that make it to either ear.
People with just minor hearing loss in just one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn quickly to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a friend speak, for instance. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that returns their lateral hearing to them.