Diplacusis: When You Hear Sounds 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. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis roamed. Thanks to its extra long neck and tail, Diplacusis was so big that it feared no predator.

Actually, Diplodocus is the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period. Diplacusis is a hearing affliction that causes you to hear two sounds at the same time.

Diplacusis is a condition which can be frustrating and confusing leading to difficulty with communication.

Perhaps you’ve been hearing some unusual things

We’re accustomed to regarding hearing loss as a kind of gradual lowering of the volume knob. According to this notion, over time, we simply hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well known, types of hearing loss. One of the most fascinating (or, perhaps, frustrating) such presentations is a condition called diplacusis.

What is diplacusis?

Exactly what is diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical term that means, pretty simply, “double hearing”. Typically, your brain gets signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and combines them harmoniously into one sound. This combined sound is what you hear. Your eyes are doing the same thing. If you place a hand on your right eye and then a hand on your left eye, you see slightly different images, right? Normally, with your ears, you won’t even notice it.

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

Diplacusis comes in two forms

Diplacusis doesn’t impact everybody in the same way. However, there are typically two basic forms of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis echoica: This occurs when the pitch is nearly the same from ear to ear, but because of your hearing loss, the timing is out of whack. Artifacts like echoes can be the outcome. And understanding speech can become complicated because of this.
  • 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 grandkids talk to you, the pitch of their voice will sound distorted. One side may sound high-pitched and the other low-pitched. This can make those sounds hard to understand.

Symptoms of diplacusis

The symptoms of diplacusis can include:

  • Off pitch hearing
  • Phantom echoes
  • Off timing hearing

Having said that, it’s useful to view diplacusis as similar 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.) Diplacusis, in these cases, is most likely a symptom of hearing loss. So your best strategy would be to make an appointment with us for a hearing test.

What are the causes diplacusis?

In a very general sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis line up rather well with the causes of hearing loss. But there are some specific reasons why you might develop diplacusis:

  • Earwax: In some cases, an earwax blockage can interfere with your ability to hear. Whether that earwax forms a partial or complete obstruction, it can cause diplacusis.
  • Noise-related damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced enough loud sounds to damage your hearing, it’s possible that the same damage has resulted in hearing loss, and as a result, diplacusis.
  • An infection: Inflammation of your ear canal can be the result of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This inflammation, while a typical response, can impact the way sound moves through your inner ear and to your brain.
  • A tumor: Diplacusis can, in rare situations, be caused by a tumor inside of your ear canal. But stay calm! They’re usually benign. But you still should speak with us about it.

Obviously, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same common causes. Meaning that you most likely have some level of hearing loss if you have diplacusis. Which means you have a good reason to visit a hearing specialist.

Treatments for diplacusis

Depending on the main cause, there are several possible treatments. If your condition is caused by an obstruction, like earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that blockage. However, diplacusis is frequently brought on by irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. In these situations, the best treatment options include:

  • Hearing aids: The correct pair of hearing aids can neutralize how your ears hear again. Your diplacusis symptoms will gradually fade when you benefit from hearing aids. You’ll want to speak with us about finding the correct settings for your hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implant: In circumstances where the hearing loss at the root of diplacusis is profound, a cochlear implant might be the only way to get relief from the symptoms.

A hearing exam is the first step to getting to the bottom of the problem. Think about it this way: whatever kind of hearing loss is the cause of your diplacusis, a hearing test will be able to identify that (perhaps you simply think things sound strange at this point and you don’t even identify it as diplacusis). Modern hearing tests are really sensitive, and good at finding inconsistencies between how your ears hear the world.

Life is more fun when you can hear clearly

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

So there will be no diplacusis symptoms interfering with your ability to hear your grandkids telling you all about the Diplodocus.

If you believe you have diplacusis and want to get 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.

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