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Man suffering from single-sided hearing loss is only experiencing one half of the world because he can't hear the other.

As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as being black and white — somebody has normal hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one particular form of hearing loss entirely.

A 1998 study estimated approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease at the time. It is safe to say this 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 indicates a decrease in hearing just in one ear.In extreme instances, deep 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 their human body.

Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It can be the result of injury, for instance, a person standing beside a gun fire on the left may get moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to this issue, as well, for example:

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

Whatever the cause, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different way of processing audio.

Direction of the Audio

The mind uses the ears nearly just like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on which ear registers it first and at the maximum volume. When somebody speaks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a signal to flip in that way.

Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound is only going to come in one ear regardless of what way it comes from. In case you have hearing in the left ear, your head will turn left to search for the noise even when the person talking is on the right.

Think for a second 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 a person talking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound direction is tricky.

Focusing on Sound

The mind also employs the ears to filter out background sound. It informs one ear, the one nearest to the noise you wish to focus on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear handles the background noises. This is why at a noisy restaurant, you may still concentrate on the dialogue at the dining table.

When you don’t have that tool, the brain becomes confused. It is unable to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that’s everything you hear.

The mind has a lot happening at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s the reason you’re able to sit and read your social media account whilst watching TV or having a conversation. With just one functioning ear, the brain loses the ability to do one thing while listening. It must prioritize between what you hear and what you see, so you tend to lose out on the conversation around you while you browse your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Effect

The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to a person with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so they bend enough to wrap round the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not survive the journey.

If you are standing beside an individual having a high pitched voice, you may not know what they say if you don’t turn so the good ear is on their side. On the other hand, you may hear somebody with a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they’re on because they produce longer sound waves that make it to either ear.

Individuals with only minor hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to adapt. They learn quickly to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a friend talk, for instance. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round that yields their lateral hearing.

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.