Diplacusis: When You Hear Sounds in Stereo

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

The world was rather different millions of years ago. The long-necked Diplacusis wandered this volcano-laden landscape. Diplacusis was so big, due 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 at the same time, that’s a hearing condition called diplacusis.

Diplacusis is an affliction which can be challenging and confusing causing difficulty with communication.

Perhaps your hearing has been a bit weird lately

We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a sort of gradual decreasing of the volume knob. According to this notion, 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 presentations is a condition called diplacusis.

Diplacusis, what is it?

So, what’s diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical name that means, basically, “double hearing”. Normally, your brain takes signals from your right ear and signals from the left ear and combines them harmoniously into one sound. That’s what you hear. The same thing happens with your eyes. If you put a hand over your right eye and then a hand over your left eye, you see slightly different images, right? Usually, with your ears, you won’t even notice it.

Diplacusis occurs when the hearing abilities of your ears vary 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 types of diplacusis

Different people are impacted in different ways by diplacuses. 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 a sign of this form of diplacusis. So when your grandchildren talk to you, the pitch of their voice will sound distorted. Maybe 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 receives the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two different pitches. This might cause echoes (or, instead, artifacts that sound like echoes). This can also cause difficulty with regard to understanding speech.

Diplacusis symptoms

Here are a few symptoms of diplacusis:

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

Having said that, it’s useful to view diplacusis as similar to double vision: It’s usually a symptom of something else, but it can create some of its own symptoms. (Essentially, it’s the effect, not the cause.) Diplacusis, in these circumstances, is probably a symptom of hearing loss. As a result, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

What are the 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 specific reasons why you could develop diplacusis:

  • An infection: Swelling of your ear canal can be the result of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This swelling is a typical immune response, but it can influence the way sound waves travel into your inner ear (and subsequently your brain).
  • Your ears have damage caused by noise: If you’ve experienced hearing loss due to noise damage, it’s possible that it could trigger diplacusis.
  • Earwax: In some cases, an earwax blockage can interfere with your ability to hear. Whether that earwax causes a partial or complete obstruction, it can cause diplacusis.
  • A tumor: In some really rare instances, tumors in your ear canal can result in diplacusis. Don’t panic! In most instances they’re benign. But you still should talk to us about it.

It’s clear that there are many of the same causes of hearing loss and diplacusis. This means that if you’re experiencing diplacusis, it’s likely that something is impeding your ability to hear. So you should absolutely come in and see us.

Treatments for diplacusis

The treatments for diplacusis differ based on the root cause. If your condition is related to an obstruction, like earwax, then treatment will concentrate on the removal of that obstruction. But permanent sensorineural hearing loss is more often the cause. In these cases, the best treatment options include:

  • Hearing aids: The right pair of hearing aids can equalize how your ears hear again. This means that the symptoms of diplacusis will likely disappear. It’s important to get the right settings on your hearing aids and you’ll need to have us help 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 begins with a hearing assessment. Here’s how you can think about it: a hearing exam will be able to identify what type of hearing loss is at the root of your diplacusis (and, to be fair, you might not even recognize it as diplacusis, you might just think things sound weird these days). Modern hearing assessments are quite sensitive, and good at detecting discrepancies between how your ears hear the world.

Hearing clearly is more fun than not

You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the proper treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or some other treatment. It will be easier to carry on conversations. It will be easier to communicate 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 have 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.