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 rather different millions of years ago. The long-necked Diplacusis wandered this volcano-laden landscape. Diplacusis was so big, thanks to its long tail and neck, that no other predators were a threat.

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

Diplacusis is a condition which can be challenging and confusing leading to 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 simply hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well known, types of hearing loss. Diplacusis is one of the weirder, and also more frustrating, of these hearing problems.

What is diplacusis?

Exactly what is diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical name that means, pretty simply, “double hearing”. Usually, your brain will combine the sound from your right and left ear 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. Your ears are the same, it’s just that usually, you don’t notice it.

When your brain can’t effectively merge 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).

Two forms of diplacusis

Different people are affected differently by diplacuses. However, there are usually two basic types of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear don’t match it’s an indicator of this form of diplacusis. So the sound will be distorted when somebody speaks with you. 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 receives the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two separate pitches. This could cause echoes (or, instead, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). This can also cause difficulty in terms of understanding speech.

Diplacusis symptoms

Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:

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

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 produce some of its own symptoms. (It’s the effect, essentially, not the cause.) Diplacusis, in these cases, is most likely a symptom of hearing loss. As a result, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

What are the causes diplacusis?

In a very basic sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis line up quite well with the causes of hearing loss. But you could develop diplacusis for several specific reasons:

  • An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even normal allergies can cause your ear canal to swell. This inflammation, while a standard response, can impact the way sound travels through your inner ear and to your brain.
  • Earwax: In some circumstances, an earwax blockage can hinder your hearing. That earwax blockage can trigger diplacusis.
  • Noise-related damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced enough loud noises to damage your ears, it’s feasible that the same damage has brought about hearing loss, and as a result, diplacusis.
  • A tumor: Diplacusis can, in rare instances, be caused by a tumor in your ear canal. Don’t panic! They’re normally benign. Still, it’s something you should talk to your hearing specialist about!

It’s obvious that there are many of the same causes of diplacusis and hearing loss. This means that if you’re experiencing diplacusis, it’s likely that something is impeding your ability to hear. So you should absolutely come in and see us.

How is diplacusis treated?

The treatments for diplacusis differ based on the underlying cause. If your condition is caused by a blockage, like earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that obstruction. But irreversible sensorineural hearing loss is more often the cause. Here are some treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: The correct set of hearing aids can neutralize how your ears hear again. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will most likely fade. It’s essential to get the right settings on your hearing aids and you’ll want to have us assist you with that.
  • Cochlear implant: A cochlear implant might be the only way of managing diplacusis if the root cause is profound hearing loss.

A hearing exam is the first step to getting to the bottom of the problem. Here’s how you can think about it: a hearing exam will be able to identify what type of hearing loss is at the source of your diplacusis (perhaps you simply 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 inconsistencies with how your ears are hearing the world will be found.

Hearing clearly is more fun than not

Getting the right treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s a hearing aid or something else, means you’ll be more able to participate in your daily life. Talking with others will be easier. It will be easier to stay in tune with your family.

So there will be no diplacusis symptoms interfering with your ability to hear your grandchildren telling you all about the Diplodocus.

Call today for an appointment to get your diplacusis symptoms assessed.

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.