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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.

Age-related hearing loss, which concerns many adults sooner or later, will become lateral, to put it another way, it affects both ears to some point. As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as being binary — someone has average hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that ignores one particular form of hearing loss altogether.

A 1998 study estimated approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say that number has increased in that last two decades.

What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Causes It?

As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing only in one ear.In extreme 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 one side of the body.

Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It may be the result of trauma, for instance, a person standing next to a gun fire on the left may end up with profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to the problem, too, such as:

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

No matter the cause, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different way of processing audio.

Management of the Audio

The brain uses the ears nearly like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on which ear registers it first and at the highest volume. When somebody talks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a signal to turn in that direction.

With the single-sided hearing loss, the noise is only going to come in one ear regardless of what direction it comes from. If you have hearing from the left ear, your head will turn to look for the noise even if the person talking is on the right.

Pause for a minute and consider what that would be similar to. The audio would always enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound direction is catchy.

Focusing on Audio

The brain also employs the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the noise that you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. The other ear handles the background noises. This is precisely why in a noisy restaurant, you may still focus on the dialogue at the dining table.

Without that tool, the brain becomes confused. It is not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that is everything you hear.

The mind has a lot going on at any one time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That is the reason you can sit and examine your social media sites while watching Netflix or having a conversation. With just one working ear, the brain loses that ability to do something while listening. It must prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually lose out on the dialogue around you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Impact

The mind shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t survive the journey.

If you are standing next to a person with a high pitched voice, then you might not understand what they say if you don’t turn so the good ear is facing them. On the other hand, you may hear somebody having a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves which make it into either ear.

Individuals with only minor hearing loss in just one ear tend to adapt. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to listen to a friend talk, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round 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.