The world was rather different millions of years ago. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis wandered. Diplacusis was so big, due 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.
While it’s not a “horrible lizard,” in many ways diplacusis can be a menace on its own, resulting in a hearing experience that feels bewildering and out of sorts (frequently making communication challenging or impossible).
Perhaps your hearing has been a bit strange lately
We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a kind of gradual decreasing of the volume knob. According to this idea, over time, we just hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well recognized, forms of hearing loss. Diplacusis is one of the weirder, and also more frustrating, of these hearing problems.
Diplacusis, what is it?
So, what’s diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical term that means, basically, “double hearing”. Typically, your brain gets signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and combines them harmoniously into one sound. That’s what you hear. The same thing happens with your eyes. You will see slightly different images if you put your hand over each eye one at a time. Usually, with your ears, you don’t even notice it.
When your brain can’t efficiently merge the two sounds from your ears because they are too different, you have this condition of diplacusis. You can experience diplacusis due to hearing loss in one ear (called monaural diplacusis) or both ears (binaural diplacusis).
Two kinds of diplacusis
Different individuals are affected differently 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 are off it’s an indicator of this form of diplacusis. So the sound will be distorted when somebody speaks with you. Perhaps your right ear thinks the sound is low-pitched and your left ear hears the sound as high-pitched. This can make those sounds hard to make out.
- Diplacusis echoica: This occurs when the pitch is nearly the same from ear to ear, but due to your hearing loss, the timing is all wonky. This might cause echoes (or, rather, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). And understanding speech can become challenging because of this.
Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:
- Phantom echoes
- Hearing that seems off (in pitch).
- Hearing that seems off (in timing).
Having said that, it’s helpful to view diplacusis as similar to double vision: It’s normally a symptom of something else, but it can create some of its own symptoms. (In other words, 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). As a result, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably make an appointment with us.
What are the causes diplacusis?
In a very general sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis align rather well with the causes of hearing loss. But you may develop diplacusis for a number of specific reasons:
- Noise-induced damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced enough loud sounds to damage your hearing, it’s feasible that the same damage has resulted in hearing loss, and consequently, diplacusis.
- An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even just plain old allergies can cause your ear canal to swell. This inflammation, while a natural response, can impact the way sound travels through your inner ear and to your brain.
- Earwax: In some instances, an earwax obstruction can hinder your ability to hear. Whether that earwax causes a partial or full obstruction, it can cause diplacusis.
- A tumor: In some very rare instances, tumors inside your ear canal can cause diplacusis. But stay calm! They’re usually benign. But you still should speak with us about it.
It’s clear that there are many of the same causes of diplacusis and hearing loss. Meaning that you most likely have some degree of hearing loss if you’re experiencing diplacusis. So you should definitely come in and see us.
Treatments for diplacusis
The treatments for diplacusis differ based on the underlying cause. If your condition is the result of an obstruction, like earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that blockage. However, diplacusis is often brought on by permanent sensorineural hearing loss. 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 want to have us assist you with that.
- Cochlear implant: A cochlear implant may be the only way of managing diplacusis if the root cause is profound hearing loss.
All of this begins with a hearing exam. Think about it like this: a hearing assessment will be able to determine what kind 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 identify it as diplacusis). Modern hearing tests are quite sensitive, and good at detecting discrepancies between how your ears hear the world.
Life is more fun when you can hear clearly
Getting the right treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s a hearing aid or some other treatment option, means you’ll be more able to participate in your daily life. Conversations will be easier. Keeping up with your family will be easier.
So there will be no diplacusis symptoms interfering with your ability to hear your grandchildren telling you all about the Diplodocus.
If you think you have diplacusis and want to get it checked, call today for an appointment.