Millions of years ago, the world was much different. 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 at the same time, that’s a hearing condition called diplacusis.
While it’s not a “horrible lizard,” in many ways diplacusis can be a menace on its own, causing a hearing experience that feels bewildering and out of sorts (often making communication challenging or impossible).
Maybe you’ve been hearing some odd things
Usually, we think of hearing loss as our hearing getting muted or quiet over time. Over time, the story goes, we simply hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well recognized, 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? The meaning of the medical term diplacusis is simply “double hearing”. Typically, your brain gets signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and marries 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. Usually, with your ears, you won’t even notice it.
When your brain can’t successfully combine 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 kinds of diplacusis
Diplacusis doesn’t affect everybody in the same way. Normally, though, people will experience one of the following two forms of diplacusis:
- Diplacusis echoica: With this, what you hear will seem off because your brain receives the sound from each ear out of sync with the other rather than hearing two separate pitches. This may cause echoes (or, rather, artifacts that sound similar to echoes). This can also cause difficulty with regard to understanding speech.
- Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear don’t match it’s an indicator of this type of diplacusis. So the sound will be distorted when someone talks to you. Maybe your right ear thinks the sound is low-pitched and your left ear hears the sound as high-pitched. This can make those sounds hard to understand.
The symptoms of diplacusis could include:
- Hearing that sounds off (in pitch).
- Hearing that seems off (in timing).
- Phantom echoes
Having said that, it’s helpful to think of diplacusis as akin to double vision: It’s normally a symptom of something else, but it can produce some of its own symptoms. (In other words, it’s the effect, not the cause.) In these circumstances, diplacusis is almost always a symptom of hearing loss (either in one ear or in both ears). So your best course of action would be to Schedule an appointment with us for a hearing exam.
What are the causes diplacusis?
In a very basic sense (and perhaps not surprisingly), the causes of diplacusis line up quite well with the causes of hearing loss. But you could experience diplacusis for several specific reasons:
- Earwax: Your hearing can be impacted by an earwax blockage. Whether that earwax causes a partial or complete blockage, it can cause diplacusis.
- Your ears have damage related to noise: If you’ve experienced enough loud noises to damage your hearing, it’s possible that the same damage has resulted in hearing loss, and as a result, diplacusis.
- An infection: Ear infections, sinus infections, or even normal allergies can cause your ear canal to become inflamed. This inflammation, while a normal response, can impact the way sound moves through your inner ear and to your brain.
- A tumor: In some really rare situations, tumors in your ear canal can lead to diplacusis. Don’t panic! In most cases they’re benign. Still, it’s something you should speak with your hearing specialist about!
It’s obvious that there are many of the same causes of diplacusis and hearing loss. Which means that if you have diplacusis, it’s a good bet something is interfering with your ability to hear. So you should absolutely come in and see us.
How is diplacusis treated?
Depending on the main cause, there are a few possible treatments. If your condition is caused by an obstruction, like earwax, then treatment will focus on the removal of that blockage. However, diplacusis is frequently brought on by permanent sensorineural hearing loss. Here are a few treatment options if that’s the situation:
- Hearing aids: The correct set of hearing aids can equalize how your ears hear again. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will most likely disappear. You’ll want to talk to us about getting the right 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 test. Here’s how you can think about it: whatever type of hearing loss is the source of your diplacusis, a hearing exam will be able to identify that (perhaps you simply 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 discrepancies with how your ears are hearing the world will be found.
Hearing well is more fun than not
Getting the right treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s a hearing aid or some other treatment option, means you’ll be more able to participate in your daily life. Conversations will be easier. It will be easier to stay in tune with your family.
So there will be no diplacusis symptoms interfering with your ability to hear your grandkids telling you all about the Diplodocus.
If you think you have diplacusis and want to get it checked, give us a call for an appointment.