Millions of years ago, the world was a lot different. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis wandered. Thanks to its really long neck and tail, Diplacusis was so large that it was afraid of no predator.
Actually, the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period is known as Diplodocus. When you’re hearing two sounds at the same time, that’s a hearing condition called diplacusis.
Diplacusis is a condition which can be frustrating and confusing resulting in difficulty communicating.
Perhaps your hearing has been a little weird lately
We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as a sort of progressive lowering of the volume knob. Over time, the idea is, we simply hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well recognized, forms of hearing loss. One of the most fascinating (or, perhaps, frustrating) such presentations is a condition called diplacusis.
Diplacusis, what is it?
Exactly what is diplacusis? The meaning of the medical term diplacusis is simply “double hearing”. Normally, your brain gets signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and joins them harmoniously into a single sound. That’s what you hear. The same thing occurs with your eyes. You will see slightly different images if you put your hand over each eye one at a time. Normally, with your ears, you don’t even notice it.
When your brain can’t efficiently merge 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
Diplacusis does not impact everyone in the same way. However, there are usually two basic types 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 the sound will be distorted when somebody speaks with you. Maybe your right ear hears the sound as low-pitched and your left ear hears the sound as high-pitched. This can make those sounds difficult to understand.
- Diplacusis echoica: With this, what you hear will seem off because your brain gets the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two separate pitches. Artifacts like echoes can be the result. And understanding speech can become challenging as a result.
Symptoms of diplacusis
Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:
- Off timing hearing
- Hearing echoes where they don’t actually exist.
- Hearing that seems off (in pitch).
That said, it’s helpful to think of diplacusis as similar to double vision: It’s normally 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 circumstances, is probably a symptom of hearing loss. As a result, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably make an appointment with us.
What are the causes diplacusis?
In a very basic sense (and probably not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis line up rather nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But there are a few particular reasons why you might develop diplacusis:
- Earwax: In some cases, an earwax obstruction can interfere with your ability to hear. Whether that earwax causes a partial or complete blockage, it can cause diplacusis.
- An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even just plain old 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.
- Noise-induced damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced enough loud sounds to damage your hearing, it’s possible that the same damage has led to hearing loss, and consequently, diplacusis.
- A tumor: In some extremely rare cases, tumors in your ear canal can result in diplacusis. Don’t panic! In most cases they’re benign. But you should still talk to us about it.
Obviously, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same common causes. Meaning that you likely have some amount of hearing loss if you’re experiencing diplacusis. So you should definitely 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 focus on clearing it out. However, diplacusis is frequently due to permanent sensorineural hearing loss. Here are some treatment options if that’s the situation:
- Hearing aids: The right set of hearing aids can equalize how your ears hear again. Your diplacusis symptoms will slowly fade when you take advantage of hearing aids. You’ll want to consult us about finding the correct settings for your hearing aids.
- Cochlear implant: A cochlear implant may be the only way of managing diplacusis if the root cause is profound hearing loss.
All of this begins with a hearing assessment. Think about it this way: whatever type of hearing loss is the cause of your diplacusis, a hearing exam will be able to determine that (and, to be fair, you might not even recognize it as diplacusis, you may just think stuff sounds weird these days). Modern hearing tests are very sensitive, and good at detecting discrepancies between how your ears hear the world.
Hearing well 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. It will be easier to talk to people. 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 believe you have diplacusis and want to have it checked, give us a call for an appointment.