As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as a black and white — somebody has normal hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 research estimated approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease at the time. It is safe to say that amount 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 reduction in hearing only in one ear. The hearing loss may be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme cases, profound deafness is possible.
Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It can be the result of trauma, for instance, a person standing next to a firing gun on the left may end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to the issue, as well, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, an individual with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different way of processing audio.
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 at the maximum volume. When somebody speaks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that way.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear no matter what way it originates. In case you have hearing in the left ear, your head will turn to look for the sound even if the person talking is on the right.
Pause for a second and consider what that would be similar to. The sound would always enter one side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where an individual talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not deep, sound direction is tricky.
Focusing on Sound
The brain also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the sound you want to concentrate on, to listen to a voice. The other ear manages the background noises. That is precisely why in a noisy restaurant, you may still focus on the conversation at the dining table.
When you can’t use that tool, the mind becomes confused. It is not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that is all you hear.
The Ability to Multitask
The brain has a lot going on at any one time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s why you’re able to sit and examine your social media sites whilst watching Netflix or talking with family. With only one working ear, the brain loses that ability to do something when listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you tend to miss out on the conversation around you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Effect
The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t endure the trek.
If you’re standing next to a person having a high pitched voice, then you might not understand what they say unless you flip so the working ear is facing them. On the other hand, you might 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 slight hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to adapt. They learn quickly to turn their mind a certain way to hear a buddy speak, for instance. For those who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that returns their lateral hearing.