Millions of years ago, the world was much different. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis wandered. 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. When you’re hearing two sounds at the same time, that’s a hearing condition called diplacusis.
Diplacusis is an affliction which can be challenging and confusing causing difficulty communicating.
Perhaps your hearing has been a little weird lately
We’re accustomed to regarding hearing loss as a sort of progressive decreasing of the volume knob. According to this notion, over time, we simply hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well recognized, types of hearing loss. Diplacusis is one of the stranger, and also more frustrating, of these hearing problems.
Diplacusis, what is it?
So, what’s diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical term that means, pretty simply, “double hearing”. Typically, your brain will combine the sound from your right and left ear into a single sound. This combined sound is what you hear. Your eyes are doing the same thing. If you place a hand on your right eye and then a hand on your left eye, you see slightly different images, right? Normally, with your ears, you don’t even notice it.
Diplacusis happens when the hearing abilities of your ears vary so wildly that your brain can no longer combine them, at least not well. You can develop diplacusis because of the hearing loss in one ear (called monaural diplacusis) or both ears (binaural diplacusis).
Diplacusis comes in two kinds
Diplacusis doesn’t impact everyone in the same way. However, there are typically two basic forms of diplacusis:
- Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear are off it’s a sign of this form of diplacusis. So the sound will be distorted when someone speaks with you. Maybe your right ear hears the sound as low-pitched and your left ear hears the sound as high-pitched. This can make those sounds difficult to understand.
- Diplacusis echoica: This happens when the pitch is nearly the same from ear to ear, but because of your hearing loss, the timing is out of whack. Artifacts like echoes can be the outcome. This can also cause challenges in terms of understanding speech.
The symptoms of diplacusis can include:
- Hearing that sounds off (in pitch).
- Off timing hearing
- Hearing echoes where they don’t actually exist.
The condition of double vision could be a useful comparison: It’s usually a symptom of something else, but it can produce some of its own symptoms. (Essentially, it’s the effect, not the cause.) In these cases, diplacusis is almost always a symptom of hearing loss (either in one ear or in both ears). Consequently, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
What causes diplacusis?
In a very basic sense (and maybe not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis line up rather nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But there are a few specific reasons why you could develop diplacusis:
- Earwax: Your hearing can be affected by an earwax obstruction. Whether that earwax forms a partial or full obstruction, it can lead to diplacusis.
- An infection: Swelling of your ear canal can be the result of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This swelling is a normal immune reaction, but it can impact the way sound waves travel into your inner ear (and subsequently your brain).
- Your ears have damage related to noise: If you’ve experienced hearing loss caused by noise damage, it’s possible that it could trigger diplacusis.
- A tumor: Diplacusis can, in rare situations, be caused by a tumor in your ear canal. But stay calm! In most instances they’re benign. But you still should talk to us about it.
As you can see, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same common causes. This means that if you have diplacusis, it’s a good bet something is interfering with your ability to hear. So you should absolutely come in and talk to us.
How is diplacusis treated?
The treatments for diplacusis vary based on the underlying cause. If your condition is related to an obstruction, such as earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that obstruction. But permanent sensorineural hearing loss is more often the cause. In these situations, the best treatment options include:
- Hearing aids: The correct set of hearing aids can neutralize how your ears hear again. Your diplacusis symptoms will gradually fade when you take advantage of hearing aids. It’s essential to get the correct settings on your hearing aids and you’ll need to have us assist you with that.
- Cochlear implant: In cases 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 test is the first step to getting it all figured out. Here’s how you can think about it: a hearing exam will be able to identify what kind of hearing loss is at the source of your diplacusis (and, to be fair, you may not even recognize it as diplacusis, you may just think stuff sounds weird these days). We have extremely sensitive hearing tests nowadays and any inconsistencies with how your ears are hearing the world will be detected.
Life is more fun when you can hear clearly
You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the correct treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or something else. Talking with others will be easier. Keeping up with your family will be easier.
Which means, you’ll be able to hear your grandchildren tell you all about what a Diplodocus is, and you (hopefully) won’t have any diplacusis to impede you.
If you believe you have diplacusis and want to have it checked, give us a call for an appointment.