Unilateral hearing loss is defined as hearing loss that affects only one ear or that is substantially worse in one ear than the other. Severe or profound unilateral hearing loss is sometimes called unilateral deafness or single-sided deafness (SSD). Unilateral hearing loss can be conductive or sensorineural and is marked by having one “good ear” and one “bad ear.” This condition is quite common, affecting about 60,000 people in the U.S.
Signs of Unilateral Hearing Loss
In addition to the usual signs of hearing loss – like frequently asking people to repeat themselves and turning up the volume on the TV much louder than others prefer – unilateral hearing loss has some of its own symptoms. These include:
- Difficulty determining the direction of a sound source
- Problems understanding speech in noisy environments
- Trouble hearing sounds coming from a certain side
- Turning your “good ear” to your conversation partner
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss
Unilateral hearing loss has many potential causes, including:
- Trauma/head injury
- Acoustic neuroma
- Viral/bacterial infection
- Maternal illness
- Meniere’s disease
Treatment of Unilateral Hearing Loss
Unilateral hearing loss can be treated surgically or non-surgically. Most commonly, the condition is treated with hearing aids, but severe or profound cases may be treated with surgical implants.
If the affected ear has some hearing left, a traditional hearing aid can be used. Hearing aids work by amplifying sound to a level the inner ear can detect.
If the “bad ear” has little or no hearing left and the “good ear” has normal hearing, a special hearing aid called a CROS hearing aid is used. This device works by sending sound from the affected ear to the normal ear via wireless transmission.
If the “bad ear” has little or no hearing and the “good ear” also has some level of hearing loss, a BiCROS hearing aid is used, which both sends sound from the affected ear to the better ear and also amplifies sounds picked up by the good ear so they can be heard more easily.
If hearing aids are not effective for treating a patient’s unilateral hearing loss, an audiologist may recommend a surgical solution. A cochlear implant is used to treat sensorineural hearing loss, and a bone anchored hearing aid is used for conductive hearing loss.
For more information about unilateral hearing loss, contact the experts at Today’s Hearing.