The world was rather different millions of years ago. The long-necked Diplacusis roamed 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 affliction 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, leading to a hearing experience that feels confusing and out of sorts (often making communication challenging or impossible).
Perhaps you’ve been hearing some unusual things
Typically, we regard hearing loss as our hearing becoming muted or quiet over time. Over time, the story goes, we simply hear less and less. But sometimes, hearing loss can manifest in some unusual ways. One of the most interesting (or, possibly, frustrating) such presentations is a condition called diplacusis.
Diplacusis, what is it?
So, what is diplacusis? The meaning of the medical name diplacusis is basically “double hearing”. Normally, your brain gets signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and marries them harmoniously into one sound. This blended sound is 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. Your ears are the same, it’s just that usually, you never notice it.
Diplacusis occurs when the hearing abilities of your ears differ so significantly that your brain can no longer blend them, at least not well. Monaural diplacusis is caused by hearing loss in only one ear while binaural diplacusis is due to hearing loss in both.
Diplacusis comes in two forms
Diplacusis does not impact everyone in the same way. However, there are usually two basic forms 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 when your grandchildren speak with you, the pitch of their voice will sound distorted. Maybe your right ear hears the sound as low-pitched and your left ear thinks the sound is high-pitched. This can cause those sounds to be difficult to understand.
- 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. This could cause echoes (or, rather, artifacts that sound like echoes). And understanding speech can become difficult because of this.
The symptoms of diplacusis could include:
- Off timing hearing
- Hearing echoes where they don’t actually exist.
- Hearing that seems off (in pitch).
Having said that, it’s useful to think of diplacusis as akin to double vision: It’s usually a symptom of something else, but it can create some of its own symptoms. (Essentially, it’s the effect, 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 causes diplacusis?
The causes of diplacusis line up very well, in a general sense, with the causes of hearing loss. But there are some specific reasons why you might develop diplacusis:
- Your ears have damage related to noise: If you’ve experienced hearing loss as a result of noise damage, it’s feasible that it could trigger diplacusis.
- Earwax: Your ability to hear can be affected by an earwax obstruction. That earwax blockage can cause diplacusis.
- An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even normal allergies can cause your ear canal to swell. This inflammation is a normal immune response, but it can impact how sound waves move through your inner ear (and subsequently your brain).
- A tumor: In some really rare situations, tumors inside your ear canal can result in diplacusis. Don’t panic! They’re normally 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. Which means that if you’re experiencing 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 root cause. If you have an obstruction, treating your diplacusis will center around clearing it out. 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 neutralized with the correct set of hearing aids. Your diplacusis symptoms will gradually fade when you benefit from 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: A cochlear implant may be the only way of dealing with diplacusis if the root cause is profound hearing loss.
All of this begins with a hearing assessment. Here’s how you can think about it: whatever kind of hearing loss is the source of your diplacusis, a hearing exam will be able to identify that (perhaps you just think things sound strange at this point and you don’t even identify it as diplacusis). Modern hearing assessments are really sensitive, and good at finding discrepancies between how your ears hear the world.
Life is more fun when you can hear clearly
You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the appropriate treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or some other treatment. Conversations will be easier. 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 impede you.
If you think you have diplacusis and want to have it checked, give us a call for an appointment.