monaural hearing; single sided hearing loss; single sided deafness; unilateral hearing loss
These are just some of the technical terms for being deaf in one ear. I am deaf in my right ear and I have been for as long as I can remember but I don't think that this hearing loss was from birth as they surely would have picked up on it? Possibly not... Apparantly I may have had german measles as a baby but again... my parents seem reluctant to pinpoint or discuss what essentially now seems pointless.
Brian Dushaw's site on monaural hearing has a little more information and some of his personal reflections which inspired me to consider my own experiences with being deaf in one ear. It's not something I ever really think about in great detail. Things like that just become a part of who you are and you instinctively compensate for it. I think I do compensate more often than I realise as reflecting on my day today I can think of three occasions when I had to consider my position in relation to the person I was communicating with.
- When I sit next to someone(s) - in a pub, restaurant, lecture, meeting, - I have to consciously consider where I place myself to sit on the correct side so that I can hear them. Otherwise I have to strain and turn my head towards them if I want to talk to them. Those that know me well automatically make sure they are on 'my good side' and I do love them for that. It's like having a little secret disability that doesn't really disable you but definitely impacts you.
- Position is also important when walking down the street with someone as when there is a noisy background environment I most definitely can not hear what they are saying unless they are on the side of my good ear. Crossing the road can be perilous as I can't hear traffic coming from my right hand side.
- My ENT consultant once told me that I wouldn't be able to join the army because I wouldn't hear the bullets coming from my right hand side. An odd thing to tell a 16 year old girl.
- I think it is important to note that when there is very little or no background noise my hearing is perfect.
- When I am cycling I can't hear cars coming from behind so I have to turn constantly to my right to check over my shoulder. Not having the extra sensory boost of sound to rely upon makes me feel confused, uncertain and not particularly stable! Hence I can not cycle on roads on my own.
- Any noisy environments such as nightclubs, pubs and gigs are difficult social situations for me as I have to continually position and re-position myself on the correct side of the person in question with my good ear pointing towards them! As I get older this occasionally makes me feel a bit stressed.
- Okay this one is almost funny. Where is that sound coming from? I don't know! Have you ever misplaced your mobile phone and had to ring it to try and find it again? Can you hear the bell on your cat tinkling as he runs towards you? Where was that car that just beeped you? You Don't Know! Because you have absolutely no idea which direction that noise was coming from. In my last job there were two telephones in my office. One to my left and one to my right. I kid you not when the phone rang on occasion I answered the WRONG telephone. As I couldn't tell by sound only where the ringing was coming from. This can be extremely disorientating.
- Earphones. This is also funny. Headphones are for two ears. I only have one working ear. Hence if I buy standard headphones - which I do - one of them is actually just for show. I usually will put both ear pieces in my ears as otherwise I find people talk to me thinking I can hear them if I have one ear piece showing. Hence me looking ignorant/rude.
- Music. This point directly relates to the previous one. I only hear in Mono. I can not and have never been able to hear in Stereo. This is why I think that I much prefer a simple Leonard Cohen song to anything complex and loud and noisy. In fact loud music can often make me feel anxious and a bit agitated.
- Your hearing is connected to your sense of stability. I sometimes veer a little to one side when walking in a straight line. This is connected to my hearing loss affecting my balance.
- When I sleep I always sleep on my good ear. This blocks out all external noises. Including fire alarms, intruders and alarm clocks. This could be seen as both a positive and negative consequence.
- My final point is one that I read on Brian's website that really struck a chord with me. When I place my good left ear to the belly of Frank or Molly my tabby beauties all I can hear is the sultry alluring and completely satisfying world of 100% purring cat.