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The symptoms of hearing loss in one ear can be life-altering. Unilateral hearing loss (UHL), is a common and distressing ailment that affects an estimated 60,000 people in the United States each year. Here are some basic facts regarding single-sided deafness and the most effective treatments for this distinctive form of hearing loss.
The cause of unilateral hearing loss
Unilateral hearing loss occurs when one ear’s hearing is intact, but the other ear’s hearing is impaired. The severity of the loss can range from minor to severe, and it can affect adults and children. UHL affects about one out of every 1,000 children, and about 3% of school-aged children have this type of hearing loss.
Viral infections, Meniere’s disease, ear or head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or surgical intervention to remove brain tumors can all cause single-sided hearing loss. Hearing loss can also be caused by genetic or inherited factors and an anomaly in the outer, middle, or inner ear.
What UHL feels like
The severity of the hearing loss affects the symptoms. Some people find it challenging to detect the direction of sounds due to hearing loss on one side. For those with unilateral hearing loss, especially untreated, this might make navigating city traffic more difficult.
Localization difficulties can also make it more difficult to listen in groups and determine who is speaking at any particular time. Others may find it difficult or impossible to hear noises coming from a particular direction.
The inability to understand speech in noisy environments is one of the most common symptoms and possibly the most frustrating interaction. People with UHL also have a more challenging time hearing softer sounds, which means they may have problems speaking from another room.
It’s difficult for people who haven’t experienced unilateral hearing loss/single-sided deafness to comprehend the difficulties that people with this condition encounter and the lifestyle changes that can ensue. While many people learn to live with unilateral hearing loss, others find it challenging to adapt to everyday situations such as professional meetings, crowded restaurants, or family gatherings.
Many patients with unilateral hearing loss go untreated due to a lack of awareness about the condition, even while life-improving treatments like hearing aids are available.
Treatments for people who have a unilateral hearing loss
People with unilateral hearing loss can benefit from assistive hearing technology like those with hearing loss in both ears do.
Some patients with UHL may have a perfect or near-perfect hearing in one ear while having a less-than-perfect hearing in the other. In either situation, there are hearing aid solutions that can make life easier and less stressful daily.
There are three options to consider if you have significant deafness in one ear but some hearing in the other:
CROS hearing aids: Your ‘good’ ear can now hear for both of your ears, thanks to CROS. The acronym CROS refers to ‘Contralateral Signal Routing of Signals,’ and it is made up of two parts: The CROS features microphones that detect noises and speech, subsequently wirelessly transferred to the ‘good’ ear’s hearing aid. After receiving the signal from the CROS, the hearing aid transfers those sounds to your ‘bad’ ear. Suppose your “good ear” could also benefit from amplification. In that case, the hearing aid can serve as both a hearing aid and a receiver for the CROS.
Bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA): The way we hear our own voices is by bone conduction, and this hearing aid operates similarly. A bone-anchored hearing aid uses an implant that uses conduction to send sound from the bone to the inner ear. The implant for this type of hearing aid requires surgery. Still, the external hearing aid can be removed at any time when showering or sleeping.
Cochlear implants: A cochlear implant is a set of components that work together to improve hearing. There is a behind-the-ear sound processor (which looks like a substantial hearing aid) and an antenna connected to the processor via a lead and magnetically affixed to the implant (which is under the skin). The processor and antenna work together to transmit sound to the implant, a tiny electronic receiver surgically inserted beneath the skin in the temporal bone. The implant works by transforming sound waves into electrical impulses, which activate the hearing nerve and allow the brain to hear them.
Treating Hearing Loss
It’s vital to remember that unilateral hearing loss, like binaural hearing loss, should be addressed. Our team provides hearing healthcare and hearing aids for persons who have a single-sided hearing loss or any other form of hearing loss! For further information, please contact us today!