Diplacusis: When your hearing is in stereo

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

Millions of years ago, the world was much different. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis wandered. Diplacusis was so large, thanks to its long tail and neck, that no other predators were a threat.

Actually, the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period is known as Diplodocus. When you’re hearing two sounds simultaneously, that’s a hearing condition known as diplacusis.

Diplacusis is an affliction which can be challenging and confusing causing difficulty communicating.

Perhaps your hearing has been a little strange lately

Typically, we think of hearing loss as our hearing becoming muted or quiet over time. Over time, the idea is, we just hear less and less. But in some cases, hearing loss can manifest in some unusual ways. One of the most fascinating (or, perhaps, frustrating) such presentations is a condition called diplacusis.

What is diplacusis?

So, what is diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical name that means, basically, “double hearing”. Usually, your brain will mix the sound from your right and left ear into a single sound. That’s what you hear. Your eyes are doing the same thing. You will see slightly different images if you put your hand over each eye one at a time. It’s the same with your ears, it’s just that typically, you don’t notice it.

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

Diplacusis comes in two types

Diplacusis doesn’t impact everyone in the same way. However, there are usually two basic forms of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis echoica: With this, what you hear will sound off because your brain receives the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two different pitches. Artifacts similar to echoes can be the outcome. This can also cause difficulty in terms of understanding speech.
  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear don’t match it’s an indicator of this form of diplacusis. So when your grandkids talk to you, the pitch of their voice will sound distorted. One side might sound high-pitched and the other low-pitched. This can cause those sounds to be hard to make out.

Symptoms of diplacusis

The symptoms of diplacusis can include:

  • Phantom echoes
  • Hearing that seems off (in timing).
  • Off pitch hearing

The condition of double vision could be a useful comparison: It’s normally 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 Schedule an appointment with us for a hearing test.

What causes diplacusis?

In a very basic sense (and maybe not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis align rather nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But there are a few particular reasons why you could develop diplacusis:

  • Earwax: In some circumstances, an earwax blockage can impede your ability to hear. That earwax blockage can trigger diplacusis.
  • An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even normal allergies can cause your ear canal to become inflamed. This swelling, while a typical response, can impact the way sound moves through your inner ear and to your brain.
  • Noise-related damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced enough loud sounds to damage your ears, it’s feasible that the same damage has resulted in hearing loss, and as a result, diplacusis.
  • A tumor: In some very rare situations, tumors in your ear canal can lead to diplacusis. Don’t panic! They’re usually benign. But you still should speak with us about it.

It’s obvious that there are a number of the same causes of hearing loss and diplacusis. Meaning that you probably have some amount of hearing loss if you have diplacusis. So you should definitely come in and see us.

How is diplacusis treated?

The treatments for diplacusis differ based on the underlying cause. If your condition is the result of a blockage, such as earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that obstruction. However, diplacusis is often due to permanent sensorineural hearing loss. Here are a few treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: Your hearing can be neutralized with the correct pair of hearing aids. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will most likely disappear. It’s essential to get the right settings on your hearing aids and you’ll want to have us help you with that.
  • Cochlear implant: In circumstances where the hearing loss at the root of diplacusis is profound, a cochlear implant might be the only way to get relief from the symptoms.

A hearing exam is the first step to getting it all figured out. Think about it this way: a hearing test will be able to identify what type of hearing loss is at the root of your diplacusis (maybe you just think things sound weird at this point and you don’t even recognize it as diplacusis). We have extremely sensitive hearing tests nowadays and any discrepancies with how your ears are hearing the world will be found.

Life is more fun when you can hear well

You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the proper treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or some other treatment. It will be easier to carry on conversations. Keeping up with your family will be easier.

Which means, you’ll be able to hear your grandkids tell you all about what a Diplodocus is, and you (hopefully) won’t have any diplacusis to get in the way.

If you believe you have diplacusis and want to have 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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