Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is more widespread than people realize, particularly in children. Age-related hearing loss, which worries most adults at some point, tends to be lateral, to put it another way, it affects both ears to a extent. Because of this, the average person sees hearing loss as being binary — someone has average hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 research thought that around 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma 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 Makes It?
As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a decrease in hearing just in one ear.In intense instances, deep deafness is possible.
Reasons for premature hearing loss vary. It can be caused by injury, for instance, a person standing next to a gun fire on the left might end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to the problem, too, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, 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 nearly like a compass. It defines the direction of noise based on what ear registers it initially and in the highest volume.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise is only going to come in one ear regardless of what way it comes from. If you have hearing from the left ear, your head will turn to search for the noise even if the person speaking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be similar to. The audio would always enter 1 side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound direction is catchy.
Honing in on Sound
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It informs one ear, the one closest to the sound that you want to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. The other ear handles the background sounds. This is precisely why in a noisy restaurant, so you can still focus on the dialogue at the dining table.
When you don’t have that tool, the brain becomes confused. It’s unable to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that is all you hear.
The Ability to Multitask
The brain has a lot happening at any one time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That is why you’re able to sit and read your social media account while watching TV or talking with family. With just one working 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 miss out on the conversation taking place without you while you browse your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to a person with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the head 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, then you might not know what they say if you don’t flip so the working ear is on their side. On the other hand, you might hear somebody with a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves that make it to either ear.
Individuals with just slight hearing loss in only one ear tend to accommodate. They learn quickly to turn their head a certain way to hear a friend speak, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that returns their lateral hearing.