Unilateral hearing loss, or single sided deafness, is more common than people realize, especially in children. As a result, the public sees hearing loss as being binary — somebody 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 trauma or disease at the time. It’s safe to say that number has increased in that past two decades.
What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Makes It?
As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing just in one ear.In intense instances, profound deafness is possible. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that individual is left with monaural audio quality — their hearing is limited to one side of their body.
Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It may be caused by injury, for example, someone standing beside a gun fire on the left may get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to the issue, too, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the origin, an individual with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Management of the Sound
The brain utilizes the ears almost just like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it first and at the highest volume.
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 mind will turn to look for the noise even if the person talking is on the right.
Think for a second what that would be similar to. The audio would always enter one side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual talking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound management is tricky.
Honing in on Sound
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It informs one ear, the one nearest to the noise you want to focus on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. That is why at a noisy restaurant, you may still concentrate on the conversation at the table.
Without that tool, the mind gets confused. It’s not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that is all you hear.
The brain has a lot happening at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s the reason you can sit and examine your social media sites whilst watching TV or having a conversation. With only one working ear, the brain loses that 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 Impact
The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having 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 do not endure the trek.
If you are standing next to a person having a high pitched voice, then you may not know what they say unless you turn so the good ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear someone having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they produce longer sound waves that make it to either ear.
People with only slight hearing loss in just one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a friend speak, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work round that returns their lateral hearing to them.