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. The long-necked Diplacusis roamed this volcano-laden landscape. Diplacusis was so large, thanks to its long tail and neck, that no other predators were a threat.

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

Diplacusis is an affliction which can be frustrating and confusing leading to difficulty with communication.

Perhaps your hearing has been a bit weird lately

Typically, we think of hearing loss as our hearing becoming muted or quiet over time. According to this notion, over time, we just hear less and less. But sometimes, hearing loss can manifest in some peculiar ways. One of the most fascinating (or, possibly, frustrating) such manifestations is a condition called diplacusis.

What is diplacusis?

Exactly what is diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical name that means, pretty simply, “double hearing”. Typically, your brain gets information from the right ear and information from the left ear and marries them harmoniously into one sound. This combined sound is what you hear. Your eyes are doing the same thing. If you put a hand over your right eye and then a hand on your left eye, you see slightly different images, right? It’s the same with your ears, it’s just that typically, you don’t notice it.

When your brain can’t effectively merge the two sounds from your ears because they are too different, you have this condition of diplacusis. Monaural diplacusis is a result of hearing loss in only one ear while binaural diplacusis is due to hearing loss in both.

Two types of diplacusis

Different individuals are affected in different ways by diplacuses. However, there are usually two basic forms 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 the sound will be distorted when someone talks to you. Perhaps your right ear hears the sound as low-pitched and your left ear hears the sound as high-pitched. This can cause those sounds to be hard to understand.
  • Diplacusis echoica: This occurs when the pitch is mostly the same from ear to ear, but because of your hearing loss, the timing is all wonky. This could cause echoes (or, instead, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). This can also cause challenges when it comes to understanding speech.

Symptoms of diplacusis

Here are some symptoms of diplacusis:

  • Off pitch hearing
  • Off timing hearing
  • Phantom echoes

Having said that, it’s useful to view diplacusis as similar to double vision: Yes, it can develop some symptoms on its own, but it’s usually itself a symptom of something else. (It’s the effect, essentially, not the cause.) Diplacusis, in these cases, is most likely a symptom of hearing loss. So your best course of action would be to Schedule an appointment with us for a hearing test.

What are the causes diplacusis?

In a very basic sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis align quite nicely with the causes of hearing loss. But there are some particular reasons why you could develop diplacusis:

  • Earwax: In some cases, an earwax blockage can interfere with your ability to hear. Whether that earwax forms a partial or full obstruction, it can cause diplacusis.
  • Noise-induced damage to your ears: If you’ve experienced enough loud noises to damage your hearing, it’s possible that the same damage has brought about hearing loss, and consequently, diplacusis.
  • An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even just plain old allergies can cause your ear canal to swell. This inflammation, while a typical response, can effect the way sound travels through your inner ear and to your brain.
  • A tumor: Diplacusis can, in rare cases, be the result of a tumor inside of your ear canal. Don’t panic! In most instances they’re benign. But you still should talk to us about it.

It’s obvious that there are a number of the same causes of diplacusis and hearing loss. This means that if you have diplacusis, it’s likely that something is interfering with your ability to hear. So you should definitely come in and talk to us.

Treatments for diplacusis

Depending on the main cause, there are several possible treatments. If you have a blockage, treating your diplacusis will focus on clearing it out. However, diplacusis is frequently brought on by irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. Here are a few treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: The correct set of hearing aids can neutralize how your ears hear again. Your diplacusis symptoms will slowly fade when you take advantage of hearing aids. You’ll want to speak with us about getting the correct settings for your hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implant: In cases 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 test is the first step to getting it all figured out. Think about it like this: a hearing assessment will be able to establish what type of hearing loss is at the source of your diplacusis (and, to be fair, you may not even recognize it as diplacusis, you may just think things sound weird these days). We have extremely sensitive hearing tests nowadays and any discrepancies with how your ears are hearing the world will be found.

Life is more fun when you can hear well

You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the appropriate treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or something else. It will be easier to carry on conversations. Keeping up with your family will be easier.

So there will be no diplacusis symptoms interfering with your ability to hear your grandchildren 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.