Unilateral hearing loss, or single sided deafness, is much more widespread than people realize, particularly in children. Because of this, the average person sees hearing loss as a black and white — someone has normal hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one particular kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 study thought that approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It's safe to say this amount has gone up in that past two decades.
What's Single-Sided hearing loss and What Causes It?
As its name implies, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing only in one ear.In extreme instances, deep deafness is potential. The dysfunctional ear is incapable of hearing at all and that individual is left with monaural sound quality — their hearing is limited to a side of their body.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss differ. It can be caused by trauma, for instance, a person standing next to a gun firing on the left might get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to the problem, too, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, a person with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different way of processing audio.
Direction of the Audio
The brain utilizes the ears almost like a compass. It defines the direction of sound based on what ear registers it initially and at the highest volume.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise is only going to come in one ear regardless of what direction it comes from. In case you have hearing in the left ear, your mind will turn left to look for the noise even when the person speaking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be similar to. The sound would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn't profound, sound direction is catchy.
Focusing on Audio
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It informs one ear, the one closest to the noise that you want to focus on, to listen for a voice. The other ear manages the background sounds. This is precisely why in a noisy restaurant, you may still concentrate on the conversation at the dining table.
Without that tool, the brain gets confused. It's not able to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that is all you hear.
The brain has a lot going on at any one time but having two ears enables it to multitask. That is the reason you're able to sit and read your social media account while watching TV or talking with family. With only one working ear, the mind loses that ability to do one thing while listening. It has to prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you usually miss out on the conversation around you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Effect
The mind shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don't endure the trek.
If you're standing next to an individual having a high pitched voice, you might not understand what they say unless you flip so the good ear is on their side. On the other hand, you might hear somebody having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they're on because they produce longer sound waves which make it into either ear.
People with just slight hearing loss in just one ear have a tendency to adapt. They learn quickly to turn their mind a certain way to hear a buddy talk, for instance. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round that returns their lateral hearing.