Unilateral Hearing Loss: Living with Hearing Loss in One Ear

Unilateral Hearing Loss: Living with Hearing Loss in One Ear

In Blog, Expert Information, Hearing Aids, Informative by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

Having a hearing loss in one ear is more common than people realize. This condition is known as unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness (SSD), depending on the severity of hearing loss. While the degree of hearing loss can vary widely, a permanent unilateral hearing loss exists when an individual has a hearing loss across frequencies in only one ear, and normal hearing across frequencies in the other ear.

You may struggle to hear in crowded or noisy environments.

Your brain is responsible for selective listening, meaning, filtering out noises that aren’t useful. Without the aid of a second functioning ear, that is harder to do. In a noisy environment, someone with unilateral hearing loss may find it difficult to focus on a single speaker’s voice.

You can’t always pinpoint the origin of a sound.

The brain uses both ears to pinpoint the location of a sound. It is able to determine the origin of a sound based on which ear receives the sound first. This is known as sound localization or directional hearing. When only one ear is easily receiving sound, it becomes more difficult for the brain and in turn, the individual, to figure out where the sound originated.

It may be difficult to tell how loud a sound is.

Sounds seem louder when we hear with both ears. The brain receives signals from the nerves in both ears and uses this information to process sound.  Because of this, it can be more difficult to determine how loud a sound is and how close the source of the sound is. If you have hearing loss in one ear, you may hear speech but not understand what is said.

Multi-tasking may become more difficult.

As with any kind of hearing loss, unilateral hearing loss increases the cognitive load on the brain. The more noise there is, the longer it takes your brain to sort the sounds and focus on the tasks at hand. This can be mentally exhausting, and can make focusing or multi-tasking more difficult.

Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

  • There are many possible causes of unilateral hearing loss, including the following.
  • Trauma or injury to the head or ear
  • Viral or bacterial infections, such as shingles or Reye’s syndrome
  • Genetic or inherited disorders, such as neurofibromatosis type 2
  • Other medical conditions, such as acoustic neuroma, temporal arteritis, or Meniere’s disease
  • Exposure to certain prescription medications such as chemotherapy drugs, certain diuretics, certain antibiotics, and aspirin.

Hearing changes can often be a natural part of the aging process, or people can be born with unilateral hearing loss. Sometimes a cause for unilateral hearing loss can’t be identified, or it is due to a combination of factors. Some causes are reversible, such as wax buildup or an ear infection, and some are permanent, like those due to problems with the function of the ear itself. When hearing loss occurs suddenly, it requires immediate treatment.

Treatments for Hearing Loss in One Ear

Although unilateral hearing loss and SSD can be permanent, they can also be treatable with hearing devices worn on the functioning ear. After thorough evaluation, your audiologist may recommend a CROS, BiCROS, or bone-anchored hearing system.

CROS System

CROS stands for contralateral routing of sound and is designed for people with good hearing in one ear and a hearing impairment in the other. A CROS consists of two parts:

A CROS detects sounds occurring on the deaf ear and routes them to the hearing ear. Although only one ear has a hearing loss, the CROS system still requires wearing a device on each ear. On the non-hearing ear, the person wears a transmitter device. On the hearing ear, the person wears a receiver that processes the sound and transmits it to the non-hearing ear via a microphone. The sound is not amplified in the hearing ear.

BiCROS System

BiCROS hearing aids work the same way the CROS system works, only they’re designed for people whose hearing ear also has moderate-to-severe hearing loss. This means that the functional ear not only receives sound from the transmitter on the other ear, but it also receives amplified sound via a standard hearing aid.

Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA)

While many people with unilateral hearing loss have great success with hearing aids, some people do not find CROS or BiCROS hearing aids helpful. An alternative is a bone-anchored hearing device, which requires surgical implantation. These devices work by sending sound vibration directly to the inner ear through the skull bone. This process is known as bone conduction. A bone-anchored hearing system may be helpful in a case where middle ear and ear canal problems might prevent sound waves and signals from reaching the inner ear.

Living with Hearing Loss in One Ear? Contact Whisper Hearing Centers.

No matter the cause or degree of your hearing loss, the caring and knowledgeable audiologists at Whisper Hearing Centers can help. We have been providing quality hearing healthcare to Indianapolis and surrounding areas for more than 35 years.

Our medical experts take the time to test you thoroughly, answer all your questions, and find a hearing solution that fits your needs, your lifestyle, and your budget. It is our mission to offer the latest technological advances in hearing care, while keeping patient satisfaction a priority. We will always listen to our patients’ needs and work with them individually to find the best solution.

Call Whisper Hearing Centers today to schedule an appointment at one of our 13 Central Indiana locations. (317)865-2337