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. The long-necked Diplacusis wandered this volcano-laden landscape. Diplacusis was so large, due to its long tail and neck, that no other predators were a threat.

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.

While it’s not a “horrible lizard,” in many ways diplacusis can be a menace on its own, causing a hearing experience that feels confusing 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 lowering of the volume knob. According to this idea, over time, we simply hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well recognized, forms of hearing loss. One of the most interesting (or, perhaps, frustrating) such presentations is a condition called diplacusis.

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 combines them harmoniously into a single 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. It’s the same with your ears, it’s just that usually, you don’t notice it.

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

Two forms of diplacusis

Different people are impacted differently by diplacuses. Normally, though, individuals will experience one of the following two types of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: This form of diplacusis happens when the pitch of the right ear and the pitch of the left ear seem off. So the sound will be distorted when somebody talks to you. Perhaps your right ear hears the sound as low-pitched and your left ear thinks the sound is high-pitched. Those sounds can be difficult to understand consequently.
  • Diplacusis echoica: This occurs when the pitch is nearly the same from ear to ear, but because of your hearing loss, the timing is all wonky. This may cause echoes (or, instead, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). And understanding speech can become difficult as a result.

Symptoms of diplacusis

Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:

  • Off pitch hearing
  • Off timing hearing
  • Hearing echoes where they don’t actually exist.

The condition of double vision may be a useful comparison: It’s usually 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 probably 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 general sense (and probably not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis align quite nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But there are some particular reasons why you could develop diplacusis:

  • An infection: Inflammation of your ear canal can be the outcome of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This swelling is a common immune reaction, but it can influence the way sound waves move through your inner ear (and therefore your brain).
  • Your ears have damage caused by noise: If you’ve experienced enough loud sounds to damage your hearing, it’s feasible that the same damage has led to hearing loss, and as a result, diplacusis.
  • Earwax: In some cases, an earwax obstruction can interfere with your ability to hear. That earwax blockage can trigger diplacusis.
  • A tumor: In some really rare cases, tumors in your ear canal can cause diplacusis. But remain calm! They’re usually benign. Still, it’s something you should speak with your hearing specialist about!

As you can see, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same common causes. This means that if you have 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?

Depending on the underlying cause, there are a few possible treatments. If your condition is related to a blockage, like earwax, then treatment will focus on the removal of that obstruction. But permanent sensorineural hearing loss is more often the cause. Here are some treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: Your hearing can be equalized with the correct set of hearing aids. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will likely disappear. You’ll want to talk to us about finding the right settings for your hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implant: In cases where the hearing loss at the root of diplacusis is profound, a cochlear implant might be the only way to provide relief from the symptoms.

A hearing exam is the first step to getting it all figured out. Here’s how you can think about it: whatever type of hearing loss is the source of your diplacusis, a hearing test will be able to establish that (and, to be fair, you might not even recognize it as diplacusis, you may just think stuff sounds weird these days). Modern hearing assessments are quite sensitive, and good at finding discrepancies between how your ears hear the world.

Life is more fun when you can hear well

Getting the appropriate treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s a hearing aid or some other treatment option, means you’ll be more capable of participating in your daily life. It will be easier to carry on conversations. It will be easier to stay in tune with your family.

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 get in the way.

If you think 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.