Double Hearing: The Bizarre Reality of Diplacusis
The range of strange hearing phenomena that exists today is vast and varied. But one of the most unusual hearing condition is arguably that of Diplacusis, or “double hearing”.
What is Diplacusis?
You may be surprised to learn that most of us will hear the same sound at different pitches in each ear. However, this difference in pitch is so slight that it’s not noticeable. The brain subsequently considers this one sound, and no problems arise. Diplacusis (pronounced dip-lah-KOO-sis), or “double hearing” occurs when our ears hear the same sound so differently that one sound is subsequently heard as two separate sounds. This unusual phenomenon is described by the dictionary as an “abnormal perception of sound either in time or in pitch, such that one sound is heard as two”.
The 4 different types of double hearing.
There are four different types of Diplacusis, each of which result in slightly different symptoms. These include:
1) Hearing the same sound differently in each ear – Diplacusis Binauralis.
2) Hearing the same sound repeated like an echo in the affected ear – Diplacusis Echoica.
3) Hearing the sound at the correct pitch in one ear and at a different pitch in the other – Diplacusis Dysharmonica.
4) Hearing the same sound as two different sounds, but in the same ear – Diplacusis Monauralis.
What causes Diplacusis?
Diplacusis is thought to occur when hearing loss is more severe in one ear than in the other. This hearing loss can be either temporary or permanent. In turn, potential causes of hearing loss include wax build up, damage to the inner ear, ear infection, trauma to the head, noise-induced-hearing-loss (NIHL), or a number of other health conditions that may impact upon hearing. If the hearing loss is temporary, the Diplacusis will mostly likely correct itself when the loss of hearing returns.
Who is at risk?
As Diplacusis is linked to hearing loss, and hearing loss is extremely common amongst musicians, it’s no surprise that musicians are at higher risk for Diplacusis. Unfortunately for musicians, they also tend to notice differences in pitch and tone more readily than what the average person does. As a result, they may be even more aware of potential differences in pitch and tone – putting them at even greater risk when it comes to developing Diplacusis. Roughly 5% of musicians have admitted to experiencing one form of Diplacusis, compared to 1.5% of the general population. Preventing noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most effective ways to lessen the risk of developing Diplacusis. This involves carefully managing exposure to loud noises for prolonged periods of time, and taking precautions like using ear plugs when necessary.
Is there a cure?
The best way to cure this curious condition is to treat whatever is causing the underlying hearing loss. If the hearing loss is permanent, then using a hearing aid in the affected ear will help to lessen the negative symptoms of double hearing. Unfortunately, in some cases there may be no cure. In these cases, developing an improved understanding of the condition and seeking therapy to help come to terms with the ongoing suffering has proven helpful. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of hearing loss of Diplacusis, it’s best to seek out a professional and treatment as soon as possible.
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