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. Diplacusis was so large, 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. Diplacusis is a hearing condition that causes you to hear two sounds instead of one.

While it’s not a “terrible lizard,” in many ways diplacusis can be a terror on its own, causing 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

Usually, we think of hearing loss as our hearing getting muted or quiet over time. According to this idea, over time, we just hear less and less. But in some cases, hearing loss can manifest in some unusual ways. Diplacusis is one of the weirder, and also more frustrating, of these hearing conditions.

What is diplacusis?

So, what is diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical name 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 a single sound. This blended sound is what you hear. The same thing happens with your eyes. You will see slightly different images if you cover each eye one at a time. Your ears are the same, it’s just that typically, you don’t notice it.

Diplacusis happens when the hearing abilities of your ears vary so wildly that your brain can no longer merge them, at least not well. Monaural diplacusis is a result of hearing loss in only one ear while binaural diplacusis is due to hearing loss in both.

Diplacusis comes in two types

Different individuals are impacted differently by diplacuses. However, there are typically two basic forms of diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear are off it’s a sign of this type of diplacusis. So when your grandchildren speak with you, the pitch of their voice will sound distorted. One side may sound high-pitched and the other low-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 rather than hearing two different pitches. Artifacts like echoes can be the result. And understanding speech can become complicated as a result.

Diplacusis symptoms

The symptoms of diplacusis could include:

  • Hearing that sounds off (in pitch).
  • Hearing that sounds off (in timing).
  • Phantom echoes

Having said that, it’s useful to view diplacusis as akin to double vision: Yes, it can produce 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 circumstances, is most likely a symptom of hearing loss. As a result, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably schedule an appointment with us.

What causes diplacusis?

The causes of diplacusis line up quite well, in a general way, with the causes of hearing loss. But there are a few particular reasons why you might develop diplacusis:

  • Your ears have damage caused by noise: If you’ve experienced enough loud noises to damage your hearing, it’s feasible that the same damage has led to hearing loss, and consequently, diplacusis.
  • An infection: Swelling of your ear canal can be the consequence of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This swelling is a common immune reaction, but it can impact how sound waves move through your inner ear (and subsequently your brain).
  • Earwax: In some circumstances, an earwax obstruction can hinder your ability to hear. That earwax blockage can lead to diplacusis.
  • A tumor: Diplacusis can, in rare situations, be caused by a tumor in your ear canal. Don’t panic! In most instances they’re benign. Still, it’s something you should talk to your hearing specialist about!

It’s obvious that there are a number of the same causes of hearing loss and diplacusis. Which means that if you’re experiencing diplacusis, it’s a good bet something is interfering with your ability to hear. So you should absolutely come in and talk to us.

How is diplacusis treated?

Depending on the underlying cause, there are a few possible treatments. If you have a blockage, treating your diplacusis will center around clearing it out. But irreversible sensorineural hearing loss is more frequently the cause. Here are some treatment options if that’s the situation:

  • Hearing aids: Your hearing can be equalized with the right set of hearing aids. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will most likely fade. You’ll want to consult us about finding the right settings for your hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implant: A cochlear implant may be the only way of dealing with diplacusis if the root cause is profound hearing loss.

All of this starts with a hearing exam. Think about it this way: a hearing test will be able to establish what type of hearing loss is at the root of your diplacusis (perhaps you simply think things sound strange 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 detected.

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 some other treatment. It will be easier to talk to people. 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 impede you.

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.


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