Diplacusis: When You Hear Things in Stereo

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 wandered. Thanks to its really long neck and tail, Diplacusis was so big that it feared no predator.

Actually, the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period is called Diplodocus. Diplacusis is a hearing affliction that causes you to hear two sounds instead of one.

While it’s not a “horrible lizard,” in many ways diplacusis can be a menace on its own, resulting in a hearing experience that feels bewildering and out of sorts (often making communication difficult or impossible).

Perhaps your hearing has been a bit weird lately

We’re used to regarding hearing loss as a kind of gradual decreasing of the volume knob. According to this notion, over time, we just hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well known, types of hearing loss. Diplacusis is one of the weirder, and also more frustrating, of these hearing problems.

Diplacusis, what is it?

So, what is diplacusis? The meaning of the medical term diplacusis is simply “double hearing”. Usually, your brain will blend the sound from your right and left ear into a single sound. This combined sound is what you hear. Your eyes are doing the same thing. You will see slightly different images if you cover each eye one at a time. Usually, with your ears, you won’t even notice it.

Diplacusis occurs when the hearing abilities of your ears differ so significantly that your brain can no longer combine them, at least not well. Monaural diplacusis is caused by hearing loss in only one ear while binaural diplacusis is caused by hearing loss in both.

Two forms of diplacusis

Diplacusis does not impact everybody in the same way. However, there are usually two basic types of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear don’t match it’s an indication of this form of diplacusis. So the sound will be distorted when someone speaks with you. Perhaps your right ear thinks the sound is low-pitched and your left ear thinks the sound is high-pitched. Those sounds can be hard to understand as a result.
  • Diplacusis echoica: With this, what you hear will sound off because your brain gets the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two different pitches. Artifacts similar to echoes can be the result. And understanding speech can become challenging because of this.

Symptoms of diplacusis

Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:

  • Hearing that seems off (in pitch).
  • Phantom echoes
  • Off timing hearing

The condition of double vision could be a helpful comparison: It’s normally a symptom of something else, but it can produce some of its own symptoms. (Essentially, it’s the effect, not the cause.) Diplacusis, in these cases, is most likely a symptom of hearing loss. So your best course of action would be to make an appointment with us for a hearing test.

What causes diplacusis?

In a very general sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis align rather nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But you could experience diplacusis for several specific reasons:

  • Earwax: In some instances, an earwax obstruction can hinder your hearing. Whether that earwax forms a partial or complete blockage, it can cause diplacusis.
  • An infection: Inflammation of your ear canal can be the outcome of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This swelling is a normal immune response, but it can influence the way sound waves move through your inner ear (and subsequently your brain).
  • Noise-induced damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced hearing loss due to noise damage, it’s possible that it could trigger diplacusis.
  • A tumor: In some really rare cases, tumors in your ear canal can lead to diplacusis. Don’t panic! In most cases they’re benign. Still, it’s something you should talk to your hearing specialist about!

Obviously, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same typical causes. Which means that if you have diplacusis, it’s likely that something is interfering with your ability to hear. Which means you have a good reason to visit a hearing specialist.

How is diplacusis treated?

The treatments for diplacusis differ based on the underlying cause. If your condition is the result of an obstruction, such as earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that blockage. However, diplacusis is frequently brought on by permanent sensorineural hearing loss. In these situations, the best treatment options include:

  • Hearing aids: The right pair of hearing aids can neutralize how your ears hear again. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will likely fade. It’s essential to get the right settings on your hearing aids and you’ll need to have us assist you with that.
  • Cochlear implant: A cochlear implant may be the only way of managing diplacusis if the root cause is profound hearing loss.

All of this starts with a hearing assessment. Think about it this way: a hearing assessment will be able to establish what type of hearing loss is at the source of your diplacusis (perhaps you just think things sound weird at this point and you don’t even identify it as diplacusis). We have very sensitive hearing tests nowadays and any inconsistencies with how your ears are hearing the world will be found.

Life is more fun when you can hear well

Getting the appropriate 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 carry on conversations. It will be easier to stay in tune with your family.

Which means, you’ll be able to hear your grandkids tell you all about what a Diplodocus is, and you (hopefully) won’t have any diplacusis to get in the way.

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

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.