Age-related hearing loss, which affects most adults at some point, tends to become lateral, to put it simply, it affects both ears to some degree. As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as a black and white — someone has average hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores 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 gone up in that past two decades.
What is Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?
As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a reduction in hearing only in one ear. The hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme cases, profound deafness is possible. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing at all and that individual is left with monaural sound quality — their hearing is limited to a side of the human body.
Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It can be caused by injury, for example, a person standing next to a gun firing on the left might get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder may lead to the problem, too, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the cause, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Management of the Audio
The mind uses the ears almost like a compass. It defines the direction of noise based on which ear registers it first and at the highest volume. When somebody speaks to you while standing on the left, the brain sends a message to turn in that direction.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound is only going to come in one ear no matter what way it comes from. If you have hearing from the left ear, then your head will turn left to search for the sound even when the person speaking is on the right.
Think for a second what that would be similar to. The audio would enter 1 side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not deep, sound management is tricky.
Honing in on Audio
The brain also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound that you wish to concentrate on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. This is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, so you may still concentrate on the conversation at the dining table.
When you don’t have that tool, the mind gets confused. It’s unable to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that’s all you hear.
The mind has a lot going on at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That is why you can sit and read your social media account whilst watching TV or talking with family. With just one working ear, the mind loses that ability to do something when listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, so you usually miss out on the dialogue taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long 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 an individual having a high pitched voice, then you may not know what they say if you don’t flip so the good ear is facing them. On the other hand, you might hear somebody having a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they are on because they create longer sound waves that make it into either ear.
Individuals with only slight hearing loss in just one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to hear a friend talk, for example. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that yields their lateral hearing to them.