As a result, the public sees hearing loss as a binary — someone has average hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that ignores one particular kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 research thought that approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say this number has increased in that past two decades.
What is Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?
As the name implies, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing only in one ear. The hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In intense cases, deep deafness is potential. 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 vary. It may be caused by trauma, 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 may lead to this problem, too, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the cause, an individual with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing sound.
Direction of the Sound
The mind utilizes the ears almost like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it initially and in the maximum volume. When a person talks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that way.
With the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what way it originates. If you have hearing from the left ear, then your mind will turn left to look for the noise even if the person talking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be like. The audio would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person speaking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound management is catchy.
Focusing on Sound
The brain also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one closest to the noise you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. The other ear manages the background sounds. This is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, so you can still focus on the dialogue at the table.
When you don’t have that tool, the mind becomes confused. It’s unable to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that’s all you hear.
The brain has a lot happening at any one time but having two ears enables it to multitask. That is why you can sit and examine your social media sites whilst watching Netflix or having a conversation. With just one functioning ear, the brain loses that ability to do one thing when listening. It must prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually lose out on the dialogue taking place without you while you browse your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Effect
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to an individual with 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 don’t endure the trek.
If you are standing next to a person having a high pitched voice, you may not know what they say unless you flip so the working ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear somebody having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they produce longer sound waves that make it into either ear.
People 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 hear a friend talk, for example. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round that yields their lateral hearing.