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Double Trouble: Understanding Diplacusis

Two ears are always better than one, but what if they hear sounds differently and don't act like a matched pair? One form of hearing loss known as diplacusis causes some individuals to hear one noise as two different sounds. 

Man holding his head in painWhat is Diplacusis? 

Diplacusis, also known as “double-hearing,” is a form of hearing loss that results in a two-sound experience. This type of disorder occurs when one ear hears sounds differently from the other ear. Diplacusis is often caused by damage to the hair cells in your inner ear that send signals to your auditory nerve. 

What causes Diplacusis? 

Exposure to loud noise, trauma to the head, age-related hearing loss, and certain medications can cause permanent damage to the inner ear. Obstructions to the ear canal can also cause double hearing. Excessive cerumen (earwax), tumors, respiratory or severe ear infections and inflammation can cause physical changes in your ear canal and/or middle ear that affect your hearing ability. In addition to double hearing, individuals with diplacusis may develop tinnitus in the affected ear. 

Types of Diplacusis:

  • Diplacusis Monauralis
    • Double hearing in one ear; one ear hears the same sound as two different sounds.
  • Diplacusis Binauralis
    • Hearing the same sound differently in each ear. For example, one ear may hear a sound at a different pitch or different timing than the other. 
  • Diplacusis Dysharmonica
    • Occurs when sound is perceived normally in one ear, but is heard at a different pitch in the other.
  • Diplacusis Echoica
    • A sound’s timing varies between ears, creating an echo effect.


If diplacusis is caused by an obstruction in the outer or middle ear, your hearing may return to normal once the obstruction is removed or the infection subsides. Diplacusis caused by sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve from ear to the brain) is permanent, but it may be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants. 

If you suspect you or a loved one may have some degree of hearing loss or notice symptoms of diplacusis, please contact the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) or call 215.780.3180 for an appointment.