Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is more widespread than people realize, particularly in children. Age-related hearing loss, which concerns many adults sooner or later, will be lateral, that is, it affects both ears to a degree. As a result, the public sees hearing loss as a black and white — someone has average hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one particular kind of hearing loss completely.
A 1998 study estimated approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say that number has gone up in that past two decades.
What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Makes It?
As the name implies, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing only in one ear.In intense instances, deep deafness is possible.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It can be caused by injury, for example, someone standing next to a gun fire on the left might end up with profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to this problem, as well, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, a person with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Direction of the Audio
The mind utilizes the ears nearly just like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on what ear registers it first and in the maximum volume. When somebody speaks to you while standing on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that direction.
With the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what direction it originates. In case you have hearing in the left ear, then your mind will turn to look for the noise even if the person speaking is on the right.
Pause for a second and consider what that would be like. The audio would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person talking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t deep, sound direction is catchy.
Honing in on Audio
The mind also employs the ears to filter out background noise. It informs one ear, the one nearest to the sound that you wish to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear manages the background sounds. That is why in a noisy restaurant, so you can still concentrate on the dialogue at the dining table.
Without that tool, the brain becomes confused. It is not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that’s all you hear.
The Ability to Multitask
The mind has a lot happening at any given time but having two ears enables it to multitask. That is the reason you can sit and examine your social media account whilst watching TV or having a conversation. With just one functioning ear, the mind loses that ability to do one thing when listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, so you tend to lose out on the conversation around you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual with a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so they bend enough to wrap round the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t survive the trek.
If you’re standing beside a person having a high pitched voice, you might not know what they say if you don’t turn so the working ear is facing them. On the flip side, you may hear someone with a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves that make it into either ear.
People with only minor hearing loss in only one ear tend to adapt. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to listen to a friend talk, for example. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that yields their lateral hearing to them.