Hearing Health Blog

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

The world was extremely different millions of years ago. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis roamed. Diplacusis was so big, thanks to its long tail and neck, that no other predators were a threat.

Actually, the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period is called Diplodocus. When you’re hearing two sounds simultaneously, that’s a hearing condition called diplacusis.

Diplacusis is a condition which can be frustrating and confusing resulting in difficulty with communication.

Perhaps your hearing has been a bit weird lately

We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a kind of progressive lowering of the volume knob. According to this idea, over time, we simply hear less and less. But in some cases, hearing loss can manifest in some unusual ways. One of the most interesting (or, possibly, frustrating) such manifestations is a condition called diplacusis.

What is diplacusis?

Exactly what is diplacusis? The meaning of the medical name diplacusis is simply “double hearing”. Usually, your brain will combine the sound from your right and left ear into one sound. This blended sound is what you hear. The same thing happens with your eyes. If you put a hand over 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.

Diplacusis happens when the hearing abilities of your ears differ so significantly that your brain can no longer blend them, at least not well. You can experience diplacusis due to hearing loss in one ear (called monaural diplacusis) or both ears (binaural diplacusis).

Two types of diplacusis

Different people are impacted in different ways by diplacuses. Normally, though, people will experience one of the following two types of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: This kind of diplacusis happens when the pitch of the right ear and the pitch of the left ear are hearing sound as two different pitches. So when your grandkids 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 make out.
  • 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. This might cause echoes (or, instead, artifacts that sound like echoes). This can also cause difficulty in terms of understanding speech.

Symptoms of diplacusis

Here are some symptoms of diplacusis:

  • Hearing that seems off (in pitch).
  • Hearing that seems off (in timing).
  • Hearing echoes where they don’t actually exist.

Having said that, it’s useful to think of 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 circumstances, diplacusis is nearly always a symptom of hearing loss (either in one ear or in both ears). So your best course of action would be to make an appointment with us for a hearing exam.

What are the causes diplacusis?

The causes of diplacusis line up quite well, in a general way, with the causes of hearing loss. But you could develop diplacusis for numerous specific reasons:

  • Earwax: Your hearing can be impacted by an earwax blockage. That earwax obstruction can lead to 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.
  • Noise-related damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced hearing loss caused by noise damage, it’s possible that it could cause diplacusis.
  • A tumor: In some extremely rare situations, tumors in your ear canal can lead to diplacusis. Don’t panic! In most instances they’re benign. But you should still consult with us about it.

As you can see, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same common causes. Meaning that you most likely have some amount of hearing loss if you have diplacusis. Which means it’s a good idea to see a hearing specialist.

How is diplacusis treated?

The treatments for diplacusis differ based on the underlying cause. If you have an obstruction, treating your diplacusis will center around clearing it out. But irreversible sensorineural hearing loss is more often the cause. In these situations, the best treatment options include:

  • Hearing aids: Your hearing can be neutralized with the right pair of hearing aids. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will likely fade. You’ll want to speak with us about finding the right settings for your hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implant: In circumstances where the hearing loss at the root of diplacusis is profound, a cochlear implant may be the only way to get relief from the symptoms.

All of this begins with a hearing assessment. Here’s how you can think about it: whatever kind of hearing loss is the cause of your diplacusis, a hearing exam will be able to establish that (and, to be fair, you may not even recognize it as diplacusis, you might just think stuff sounds weird these days). 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 well

Getting the proper treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s a hearing aid or some other treatment option, means you’ll be more capable of participating 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 grandkids telling you all about the Diplodocus.

Call today for an appointment to get your diplacusis symptoms checked.

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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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