Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is much more prevalent than people realize, notably in kids. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as a black and white — either somebody has healthy hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one particular kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 research thought that around 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease at the time. It’s safe to say this number has gone up in that past two decades.
What’s Single-Sided hearing loss and What Causes It?
As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing just in one ear.In intense instances, profound deafness is potential.
Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It can be the result of trauma, for example, someone standing next to a gun firing on the left might get moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to this issue, as well, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the cause, an individual who has unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Management of the Audio
The brain utilizes the ears almost just like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on which ear registers it initially and in the maximum volume.
With the single-sided hearing loss, the sound is only going to come in one ear regardless of what way it comes from. If you have hearing in the left ear, then your mind will turn left to search for the noise even when the person speaking is on the right.
Think for a second what that would be like. The sound would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where a person speaking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound management is tricky.
Focusing on Sound
The mind also employs the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the sound you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. This is why in a noisy restaurant, so you can still focus on the dialogue at the dining table.
Without that tool, the brain becomes confused. It is unable to filter out background sounds like a fan blowing, so that is all you hear.
The brain has a lot going on at any one time but having two ears allows it to multitask. That is why you can sit and examine your social media account whilst watching Netflix or talking with family. With only one functioning ear, the mind loses the ability to do one thing when listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually miss out on the dialogue taking place without you while you browse your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap round the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t endure the journey.
If you are standing beside an individual having a high pitched voice, you may not understand what they say unless you flip so the good ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear someone 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 slight hearing loss in just one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to hear a friend speak, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that yields their lateral hearing to them.