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

As a result, the public sees hearing loss as being binary — either someone has average hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on both sides, but that ignores one particular form of hearing loss altogether.

A 1998 study estimated approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease at the time. It is safe to say this amount has gone up in that last two decades.

What is Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?

As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing only in one ear. The hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme cases, deep deafness is potential. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that person is left with monaural sound quality — their hearing is limited to one side of their body.

Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It may be caused by trauma, for example, a person standing beside a gun fire on the left might get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to the issue, as well, for example:

  • 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.

Direction of the Sound

The brain utilizes the ears nearly like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it first and in the highest volume. When somebody talks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a message to turn in that direction.

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

Pause for a second and consider what that would be similar to. The sound would always enter one 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 profound, sound management is tricky.

Focusing on Sound

The brain also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound you wish to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. The other ear manages the background sounds. That is why at a noisy restaurant, you can still concentrate on the conversation at the dining table.

When you can’t use that tool, the brain gets confused. It is unable to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that’s all you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The brain has a lot going on at any given time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That is the reason you’re able to sit and read your social media sites whilst watching Netflix or having a conversation. With just one working ear, the mind loses the ability to do something while listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, so you usually miss out on the dialogue taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Effect

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

If you are standing next to a person with a high pitched voice, then you may not understand what they say unless you turn so the working ear is facing them. On the other hand, you might hear somebody with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves which make it to either ear.

Individuals with only slight hearing loss in just one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to hear a buddy speak, for instance. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work round that yields their lateral hearing to them.