Diplacusis: When Your Hearing is in Stereo

A black background with a woman who is hearing things in stereo and suffering from diplacusis.

The world was extremely different millions of years ago. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis roamed. Thanks to its extra long neck and tail, Diplacusis was so big that it feared no predator.

Actually, Diplodocus is the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period. Diplacusis is a hearing condition that causes you to hear two sounds instead of one.

Diplacusis is a condition which can be frustrating and confusing causing difficulty communicating.

Perhaps your hearing has been a little strange lately

We’re accustomed to regarding hearing loss as a kind of gradual lowering of the volume knob. According to this notion, over time, we simply hear less and less. But in some cases, hearing loss can manifest in some peculiar ways. Diplacusis is one of the stranger, and also more frustrating, of these hearing conditions.

What is diplacusis?

So, what’s diplacusis? The meaning of the medical term diplacusis is basically “double hearing”. Normally, your brain gets signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and joins them harmoniously into one sound. That’s what you hear. Your eyes are doing the same thing. You will see slightly different images if you cover each eye one at a time. Normally, with your ears, you don’t even notice it.

When your brain can’t successfully integrate the two sounds from your ears because they are too different, you have this condition of diplacusis. You can experience diplacusis because of the hearing loss in one ear (called monaural diplacusis) or both ears (binaural diplacusis).

Diplacusis comes in two kinds

Different individuals are affected in different ways by diplacuses. Usually, though, people will experience one of the following two types of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear don’t match it’s an indication of this type of diplacusis. So when your grandkids speak with you, the pitch of their voice will sound distorted. One side may sound high-pitched and the other low-pitched. This can make those sounds hard to understand.
  • Diplacusis echoica: With this, what you hear will seem off because your brain gets the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two different pitches. This might cause echoes (or, rather, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). This can also cause difficulty in terms of understanding speech.

Diplacusis symptoms

The symptoms of diplacusis can include:

  • Phantom echoes
  • Hearing that sounds off (in pitch).
  • Hearing that sounds off (in timing).

That said, it’s helpful to think of diplacusis as akin to double vision: It’s usually a symptom of something else, but it can create some of its own symptoms. (It’s the effect, essentially, not the cause.) In these cases, diplacusis is almost always a symptom of hearing loss (either in one ear or in both ears). So your best strategy would be to make an appointment with us for a hearing exam.

What are the causes diplacusis?

In a very general sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis align quite nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But there are a few specific reasons why you could develop diplacusis:

  • Noise-induced damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced hearing loss as a result of noise damage, it’s feasible that it could trigger diplacusis.
  • Earwax: Your ability to hear can be impacted by an earwax blockage. That earwax blockage can trigger diplacusis.
  • An infection: Swelling of your ear canal can be the result of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This swelling, while a normal response, can impact the way sound moves through your inner ear and to your brain.
  • A tumor: In some extremely rare cases, tumors inside your ear canal can lead to diplacusis. But stay calm! In most cases they’re benign. Still, it’s something you should talk to your hearing specialist about!

It’s clear that there are many of the same causes of diplacusis and hearing loss. Meaning that you probably have some amount of hearing loss if you’re experiencing diplacusis. Which means you have a good reason to visit a hearing specialist.

How is diplacusis treated?

Depending on the underlying cause, there are a few possible treatments. If you have an obstruction, treating your diplacusis will center around clearing it out. However, diplacusis is often due to irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. Here are a few treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: Your hearing can be equalized with the right pair of hearing aids. Your diplacusis symptoms will slowly fade when you benefit from hearing aids. You’ll want to consult us about getting the right settings for your hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implant: In circumstances where the hearing loss at the root of diplacusis is profound, a cochlear implant may be the only way to provide relief from the symptoms.

A hearing exam is the first step to getting it all figured out. Think about it this way: whatever kind of hearing loss is the cause of your diplacusis, a hearing exam will be able to determine that (and, to be fair, you might not even recognize it as diplacusis, you may just think things sound weird these days). Modern hearing assessments are quite sensitive, and good at detecting inconsistencies between how your ears hear the world.

Hearing well is more fun than not

You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the proper treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or something else. Conversations will be easier. Keeping up with your family will be easier.

So there will be no diplacusis symptoms getting in the way of your ability to hear your grandchildren telling you all about the Diplodocus.

If you believe you have diplacusis and want to get it checked, call today for an appointment.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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