Diplacusis: When Your Hearing is in Stereo

A black background with a woman who is hearing things in stereo and suffering from diplacusis.

Millions of years ago, the world was quite a bit different. 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 condition that causes you to hear two sounds instead of one.

Diplacusis is an affliction which can be frustrating and confusing resulting in difficulty communicating.

Perhaps your hearing has been a little weird lately

Usually, we regard hearing loss as our hearing becoming muted or quiet over time. Over time, the idea is, 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 conditions.

What is diplacusis?

Exactly what is diplacusis? The meaning of the medical term diplacusis is simply “double hearing”. Usually, your brain will combine the sound from your right and left ear 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. Your ears are the same, it’s just that typically, you never notice it.

Diplacusis happens when the hearing abilities of your ears differ so significantly that your brain can no longer combine them, at least not very well. Monaural diplacusis is a result of hearing loss in only one ear while binaural diplacusis is due to hearing loss in both.

Diplacusis comes in two types

Diplacusis doesn’t impact everybody in the same way. Usually, though, individuals will experience one of the following two types of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: This type 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 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 out of whack. This may cause echoes (or, instead, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). And understanding speech can become difficult as a result.

Diplacusis symptoms

Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:

  • Phantom echoes
  • Off pitch hearing
  • Off timing hearing

Having said that, it’s useful to view diplacusis as akin to double vision: It’s normally a symptom of something else, but it can create some of its own symptoms. (It’s the effect, essentially, not the cause.) In these cases, diplacusis is nearly always a symptom of hearing loss (either in one ear or in both ears). Consequently, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

What are the causes diplacusis?

The causes of diplacusis line up very well, in a general way, with the causes of hearing loss. But you may develop diplacusis for several particular reasons:

  • An infection: Swelling 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 impact the way sound waves travel into your inner ear (and therefore your brain).
  • Earwax: In some circumstances, an earwax blockage can interfere with your hearing. Whether that earwax causes a partial or complete blockage, it can lead to diplacusis.
  • Your ears have damage related to noise: If you’ve experienced enough loud sounds to damage your ears, it’s feasible that the same damage has resulted in hearing loss, and consequently, diplacusis.
  • A tumor: In some very rare situations, tumors inside your ear canal can cause diplacusis. But stay calm! They’re normally benign. But you still should consult with us about it.

Obviously, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same typical 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 see us.

How is diplacusis treated?

Depending on the main cause, there are a few possible treatments. If your condition is related to an obstruction, such as earwax, then treatment will focus on the removal of that obstruction. However, diplacusis is frequently brought on by irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. Here are some treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: Your hearing can be equalized with the right set of hearing aids. Your diplacusis symptoms will slowly fade when you take advantage of hearing aids. It’s important to get the proper 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 might be the only way to provide relief from the symptoms.

A hearing test is the first step to getting to the bottom of the problem. Think about it this way: a hearing exam will be able to establish what type 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 really sensitive hearing tests nowadays and any inconsistencies with how your ears are hearing the world will be detected.

Hearing clearly is more fun than not

Getting the proper 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. Keeping up with your family will be easier.

So there will be no diplacusis symptoms getting in the way of your ability to hear your grandchildren telling you all about the Diplodocus.

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.