Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is much more regular than people realize, prominently in children. Age-related hearing loss, which concerns many adults sooner or later, will become lateral, to put it simply, it affects both ears to an extent. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as a black and white — either somebody has typical hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one particular kind of hearing loss entirely.
A 1998 research estimated approximately 400,000 children 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 its name implies, single-sided hearing loss suggests a reduction in hearing only in one ear.In extreme instances, profound deafness is possible. The dysfunctional ear is incapable of hearing at all and that person is left with monaural sound 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 gunfire on the left may get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder may lead to the problem, as well, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the origin, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing sound.
Direction of the Audio
The brain utilizes the ears nearly like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on which ear registers it first and at the highest volume. When a person speaks to you while standing on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that direction.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear regardless of what direction it originates. In case you have hearing loss in the left ear, then your mind will turn left to search for the noise even if the person speaking is on the right.
Pause for a minute and consider what that would be similar to. The sound would always enter 1 side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where an individual talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound direction is catchy.
Focusing on Audio
The brain also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It informs one ear, the one nearest to the sound you wish to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear handles the background noises. This is why in a noisy restaurant, you can still focus on the dialogue at the dining table.
Without that tool, the mind gets 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 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 Netflix or talking with family. With only one functioning ear, the brain loses the ability to do something while listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, so you usually lose out on the conversation around you while you browse your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Effect
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to a person with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t survive the journey.
If you’re standing next to a person having a high pitched voice, then you may not understand what they say if you don’t flip so the working ear is facing them. On the flip side, you may 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 slight hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to adapt. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to listen to a buddy speak, for instance. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work round that yields their lateral hearing to them.