The Unique Challenges of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Man suffering from single-sided hearing loss is only experiencing one half of the world because he can't hear the other.

Single-sided deafness, or unilateral hearing loss, is much more common than people realize, particularly in children. As a result, the public sees hearing loss as being black and white — either somebody has healthy hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one form of hearing loss altogether.

A 1998 research thought that around 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It is safe to say that amount has increased in that last two decades.

What is Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Makes It?

As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a reduction in hearing just in one ear.In extreme cases, profound deafness is possible. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever 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 instance, someone standing beside a gun firing on the left may end up with profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to this issue, as well, such as:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Measles
  • Microtia
  • Meningitis
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Mumps
  • Mastoiditis

Whatever the origin, an individual who has unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing audio.

Management of the Audio

The mind uses the ears almost just like a compass. It identifies the direction of noise based on what ear registers it initially and at the maximum volume.

With the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear no matter what direction it comes from. If you have hearing from the left ear, your head will turn left to look for the sound even if the person speaking is on the right.

Think for a second what that would be similar to. The sound 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 management is catchy.

Focusing on Sound

The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound that you wish to focus on, to listen for a voice. The other ear handles the background sounds. That is precisely why in a noisy restaurant, you may still concentrate on the dialogue at the dining table.

Without that tool, the brain becomes confused. It’s unable to filter out background sounds like a fan blowing, so that’s everything you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The brain has a lot happening at any given time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That’s the reason you can sit and read your social media sites whilst watching TV or talking with family. With just one working ear, the mind loses that ability to do one thing when listening. It has to prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you usually lose out on the conversation taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Impact

The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap round the head and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not endure the trek.

If you are standing next to an individual having a high pitched voice, then you might not understand what they say if you don’t flip so the good ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear somebody having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves that make it to either ear.

People with just minor hearing loss in just one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to hear a buddy talk, for instance. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that returns their lateral hearing.

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