the positive side of having a deaf left ear

Nick Bradbury created the application that has transformed my internet-use behaviour - FeedDemon (RSS / feed reader).

Nick has recently gone through some tough times and has shared his journey on his blog.  I find his openess humbling.  He's just had a brain tumour removed and is describing his recovery in detail.  What I love is the support and good vibe he receives via the posts comments - his customers (and friends obviously) really care and show it.

It makes me wonder about how much of my personal life I share (or more to the point - don't share) on my blog.  I've kept it as a general rule that this blog is about my web/tech thoughts (I do err from time to time - not wise), I don't think this will change. If I do err, I'll try to post elsewhere (er, should I have posted this post here I wonder...?).

Anyway, back to Nick.  It turned out that the surgery, although meeting its objective of removing the tumour, had the downside of severing Nick's left hearing nerve making him permanently stone deaf in that ear.  The balance nerve was also severed causing a short-term issue (around 2 days) that made the room spin constantly (you know the feeling - 1 Guinness too many and you lie in bed - room spins horridly and the bowl inevitably beckons).

He's very positive about it all and managing to retain his sense of humour - his recovery making progress. Enough so that I felt I could share with him (and you) the positive side of having a deaf left ear (which I also suffer):

"thanks for sharing with us Nick, great to hear the surgery went well.

I'm pretty much deaf in my left ear since my brother decided it would be a good idea to get a kitchen towel tube, put it against my ear and scream. I was 13.

Brendan makes a good point. Your brain will reconfigure to allow your other ear to compensate. You'll notice less the loss of hearing over time.

Here's the bright side of the bad ear:

- If you're a light sleeper (I am), going to sleep on your good hear (bad ear up) makes for a great natural and cheap noise-reduction system.

- You can ignore people on-deman and not offend them. Simply place your corresponding the index finger over the good ear's Tragus (see below). Useful for those mother-in-law moments.

- When things get too loud (such as an ambulance screaming and wailing as it passes) you only need to cover one ear, leaving you with a free hand to drink your Starbucks.

Anyway, have speedy recovery!


Comments (16)
  1. Loved your comment in my blog (and here). Funny thing is, I’ve already discovered some of the benefits of deafness that you mention – the ability to roll over and sleep on my good ear has been a great way to drown out noise.

    As far as how personal you should get here, that’s a tricky question, and it’s one I struggled with myself (my blog was originally strictly business). I’d say go for it, though, since my blog has become much more popular now that I’m posting personal items (which, ironically enough, probably translates into more business).

  2. MSDNArchive says:

    nice one Nick. One last thought on this. Youl find you’ll start position yoursefl at social occasions to account for the bad ear. Example: If two of you are having dinner, and you’re going to sit in two sdes of a table next to each other (as opposed to opposite), you’ll find that you’ll want your dinner partner to site to your right so they are talking into your good ear (otherwise you will find yourself turning clockwise because they are talking to your bad ear). Unless of course they are a bore, in which case keep them to your left 😉

  3. X.Static says:

    Insightful post, well thought out and good job putting a somewhat humorous spin on it. As an amateur musician, I don’t know what I’d do if I lost any of my hearing…I’ve always said I’d rather go blind than deaf. It’s great that you guys have managed to stay positive about it.

    As far as posting personal content on "tech" blogs, I went through a change myself (same as Nick mentioned) a while back and revamped all my post categories to include personal categories, though I still try to keep it about 75/25 tech/personal. Post categories are great for the syndication crowd b/c they can simply subscribe to the cats they want to read and tune the other noise out, and of course the great thing about the internet is if someone doesn’t want to read something, they don’t have to…just skip it and move on to the next post.

  4. PJ Houston says:

    re: driving a left-hand drive car with deaf right ear

    I’m Irish/Scots, living in Italy.  I recently lost all hearing in my right ear, and am discovering I can make up for the loss by turning my head – a bit like one of those directional antennas – except when in my car cos it’s left hand drive (just try looking towards the right-hand passenger window and going ‘straight’ so to speak).  Now once I go to Ireland, rent a car, and drive on the right all that’s going to change!!

  5. vickie swinford says:

    i had an ascoustic neuroma in my left ear.  i had it removed in oct. 2003. i lost my hearing in left ear and when their is alot of noise i do not hear anything but mumbles. my balance nerve was also severed and i still have problems with it especially when i get a head cold or sinus infection.

  6. Tim S says:

    I’m Deaf in my right ear from birth, as deaf as you can get, my auditory nerves never developed.  Yet I’ve joined the Navy, and lived my life pretty normal with a few observations:

    1)I sleep on my good ear.  

    2)selective hearing, this is essential, this gives you the excuse to claim you couldn’t hear someone even if you did 🙂

    3)You will pick up on body language what people are saying even if you can’t hear them.

    4)Not being able to hear Stereo really sucks, especially being a music lover, I still have not been able to find a "true" mono plug for my headphones (low volume of course).   Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    5)My good ear is king, if I have an effection, drop everything, and call my ear doctor, do not wait, he is as essential as my regular physician.  

  7. Julsson says:

    Hi Alex and all!!!

    My name’s Julian (from Bulgaria) and I’m stone deaf in my left ear since I was about 5-6 years old. I got some infecion in my right ear and it somehow reflected on my left ear. When my parents took me to the doctors it was just too late to do something to help the situation.

    For many years I was taught to somehow hide this fact from other kids in school and it resulted in me feeling quite ashamed with my deafness. Recently (now I’m 24 years old), I learned to accept the fact of my deafness and not being ashamed of it. My friends accept it really well and we’re often joking about it – I have no problem with this.

    What’s more – I’m a musician and this is much what my dreams are about – having a band and being able to keep my musical talents developing. I’m composing and mixing music and some of my idols in music with whom I’ve been in touch, say that my mixing abilities are really good and that I should go for it!!! That whole thing teaches you not to take yourself too seriously and allows you to develop a good sense of humor, I think.

    Actually I think that my musical talent/hearing abilities is much better than that of some other musicians. And at least I have the balls to say it!!!

    I haven’t done much research on that but I have a slight problem keeping good ballance while climbing any kinds of stairs – if I don’t look at my feet while I’m at the stairs, I tend to stumble. Actually, I feel quite uncertain at stairs. Have any of you ever had that kind of problem?

    The positive sides are many – your other senses come more "taught" – I can see really well and recognise persons I know, from a really far distance. And my right ear seems to work like it’s two ears.

    – I can develop the company "Good ear" and produce some tires as a way to make a living, haha! 😀

    – I can make people feel sorry for me – no! That’s a shitty thing actually, I hate it. LOL

    – I have no problem with going to sleep even if there is a snorting monster in the room.

     – I can think of myself as of a Hero for trying to maintain goals in music while being a half-deaf person.

     By the way, there are a few cellebrities who are deaf in their left ear. One of them is Phil Collins and the other one I know of is the guitarist of The Who. Some people think I’m a good player too, so that encourages me.

    There are often some funny situations including "mishearing" – people saying something to me and me hearing a completely different (by meaning) but in the same time resembling (by sound) thing.

    It’s good to see friends care for you when they ask you where to sit, so that you can communicate better.

    I remember going to a date with a girl – I told her about my little hearing problem – "Let’s switch sides", I said as she was walking at my left side. Then I explained the reason. She seemed like she didn’t know what to say – like she was afraid to hurt me or something. Then, we went to a cafe – the conversation wasn’t going well and after a two more coffee-meetings, she acused me of being not an interesting person to talk-to. That may be partly true (but that would be another discussion), however here’s what actually happened – there were a few things she said that I couldn’t hear well because of the other people in the cafe – they were making quite a noise and the radio was on as well. So, I asked her to repeat what she said and in cases like this she would go like "Oh, nothing…it’s not important". Is that a normal way of having a good conversation? I don’t think so.

    Another thing is that sometimes my sentences sound a bit "strange" – like I can’t automatically find the right gramatical form to put my words in. I know that the right side of the brain is connected with speech and the left with music. Maybe there has been some reflection on my speech when my left year got worse, I gotta do some more research on that.

    Well, that was pretty much it.

    Thanks for reading my post. I sure enjoyed reading thru this blog as well 🙂

    Take care!!! Cheers!!!


  8. MSDNArchive says:

    Hey Julien,

    thanks for sharing your story!

    As you point out, there are some positives to all this…so cool to know that it hasn’t negatively affected your musical ambitions.

  9. Amrita says:


    I am deaf in my left ear too. nderwent a lot of tests at the age of six (thats when we realised my problem). They couldnt point out to any particular reason.

    Anyway it has its good and bad sides. I loved the points!

  10. arti says:

    hey, i’m so glad i found this blog! i was just on google, fed-up with stereo headphones, looking for some good monaural ones, when somehow i came across this link. does anyone have a recommendation?

    i discovered that i had absolutely no hearing in my left ear one day on the playground during recess when i was five. whispering secrets to each other was all-of-a-sudden the "cool" thing to do in kindergarten. a little girl whispered something to me in my left ear, and no matter how loudly she whispered, i couldn’t hear it. it occurred to me to have her try it in my other ear, and lo and behold, i could hear it fine. When she ran off, i did a little experiment.. i blocked my right ear. then, i noticed that all the playground noises had completely muffled. that’s how i learned i was half-deaf.

    i’m 21 now, and still completely deaf in my left ear. i don’t really intend to try hearing aids or anything because i’ve functioning pretty well without. I simply tell people if they happen to be on my left, that I have to switch sides so I can hear them.  most of my friends automatically move to my right when they talk to me. the only difficult thing is people automatically assume i’m a snob ignoring them if they call my name from behind and i don’t hear. don’t you love it when people just assume the worst in others? ;o)

    the other difficult thing is.. not knowing what stereo sound is like! if i tried earplugs or surgery, it would just be for that reason! any headphone recommendations? :o)

  11. Fran says:

    I love this blog topic! I have sensorineural hearing loss (a missing nerve) in my right ear, and have been "half-deaf" for my whole life. Various physicians can’t decide whether I was born that way or if it was caused by a high fever I had as a month-old baby. Whatever the cause, my parents and three older sisters had no idea there was a problem until my pre-school discovered it in a standard hearing test. My family felt pretty guilty, because I had already told them that I couldn’t hear people sometimes on the phone (when I unwittingly held it up to my right ear), and they’d thought that I was joking!

    Anyway, I can relate to Julian in that I’m also a musician–although I don’t do it professionally. I’ve been playing piano and singing in choirs since I was a kid, and now I perform classical and operatic pieces in my university choir and in private voice lessons. Actually, being in deaf in one ear was almost convenient at first, because I was able to tune out people singing a different part from me in the choirs. However, most of the time it’s just irritating, since I’d like to stand at the edge of the group so I could everyone’s part and "blend" more effectively, but instead I’m forced to stand in a particular section in the middle or to the left side of the room (with my deaf ear facing half or 2/3 of the group).

    The only fun thing about being  a "half-deaf" musician is that I have perfect pitch (meaning I can sing any note upon demand without having to hear it played first), and this always shocks people. "What?" they say. "You’re deaf in one ear AND you have perfect pitch? How is that even possible?" In high school, I enjoyed being the human pitch pipe for my a cappella group, and it made me feel proud like you do, Julian–as if I’ve overcome a handicap. But frankly, I’d say that monaural hearing is really only an inconvenience for musicians when trying to balance the volumes of your voice/instrument with the rest of the group; everything else you can do as a musician–rhythm, staying in tune, etc.–is based on skill and talent, not overcoming a lack of stereophonic hearing.

    I do agree with everyone who has complained thus far about not being able to converse easily (or at all) in large crowds or at parties. As an adolescent, I was very hurt when my close friends constantly cracked jokes that I couldn’t hear and only left seats for me that put all of them on my deaf side. Although I would remind them often that I couldn’t hear them because of my ear, and would ask them to repeat the jokes or punchlines, they’d usually just say, "Oh, nevermind, it wasn’t important."

    This kind of isolation that I experienced as a child (and now, often at parties and in my noisy dorm cafeteria) has given me a glimpse of the isolation in which fully-deaf people live all the time in the hearing world. For this reason, sign language has always fascinated me, and now I am taking my second course in American Sign Language at my university. In fact, I just came from a sign language meeting tonight, which introduced a lot of hearing students to sign language and to deaf students. And tonight, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have to worry about positioning myself to hear people at this crowded party; all I had to do was watch their hands (or read their lips, which I have partially picked up over the years out of necessity) and I could follow the conversation and participate easily! I think that, as partially-deaf members of a speaking society, we have an obligation to make fully-hearing people aware of the deaf communities around them. Take our close friends, who are accustomed to moving to one side or another when they talk to us; this easy accomodation they make for us can also make fully-deaf people seem more approachable. Perhaps it could even make them (and all of YOU) interested in communicating regularly with deaf people, who experience the world in a different way from the rest of us–but who are still people just like us.

    In response to request for monaural headphone recommendations: I have discovered Kensington Noise Cancelling Headphones, which are really excellent headphones even without the noise-cancelling feature. While they are still stereo headphones, I plug them into a monaural headphone adapter that I bought from Radioshack a couple of years ago (I believe it was the only one of its kind in the store). With this monaural adapter, the sound quality from these headphones is fantastic. And believe me, I’m very picky about the sound quality of my favorite loud-blasting songs, and I still think that this pair make a truly excellent monaural headset!

    Good luck finding your headphones, everyone, and try looking up a little sign language on the internet. It’s a really fun way to talk to people without re-positioning them on your "good side."


  12. MSDNArchive says:

    Arti and Fran – thanks for stopping by and sharing.

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