What is Single-Sided Hearing Loss?

Bary E. Williams Au.D. Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

There is a very important reason we as humans have two ears.  We need both to help us hear. When a person suffers from single sided hearing loss, also known as unilateral hearing loss, the results can negatively impact our quality of life. Single sided hearing loss occurs when a person experiences a normal level of hearing in one ear while their other ear has a hearing loss of some degree. Millions of Americans have single-sided or unilateral hearing loss. Because they can still hear out of the other ear, many with single-sided hearing loss neglect to address their condition with hearing aids. Instead, they rely on their “good” ear to get by, but they can still be met with several challenges in their day-to-day lives.


Effects of single sided hearing loss

Single sided hearing loss provides difficulties for sufferers and their families, but the level of this will depend a lot on the degree of loss. People with complete deafness in one ear are categorized as being able to only hear in monaural, or in mono. People who suffer from this will often find it difficult to pick out specific sounds or speech amongst a wall of noise. Research indicates that when background noise and speech are presented to the listener at the same level, they can only pick up on around one third of the conversation

In the long term, this can have negative implications on their health and well being. It also makes it much more difficult to engage properly in conversation. People that are focusing so intently on hearing what is being said will often find that they are unable to engage in the conversation simultaneously. Suffering from single sided hearing loss also provides problems when determining the movement of sound sources, how far these sources are from people and the direction where sounds are coming from.


Failure to communicate

Unlike low-frequency sounds, which can bounce around to the other side of your head and are still often heard even when your good ear is facing away from the source, high-frequency sounds have shorter wavelengths, which get blocked by your head and can’t travel to the “good” ear. Since many consonant sounds fall in the high-frequency range, it can be challenging to comprehend speech and follow a conversation when it comes from your “bad” side.

The brain has a lot happening at any one time, but having two ears allows it to multitask. With just one working ear, the brain loses the ability to do something else while listening. It has to prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you usually miss out on the conversation around you while watching TV or checking your phone.


Stress on your relationships

Not only does untreated single-sided hearing loss diminish your ability to hear, but it also impacts how you live your life. You may have to ask people to speak on the side of your “good” ear, reposition yourself, or constantly turn your head during conversations. Doing this repeatedly just to follow a conversation can strain your neck and back. Ultimately, people with single sided hearing loss can suffer from listener fatigue, isolation, and depression.


Treatment of single sided hearing loss

When hearing is far worse in one ear than the other correcting the overall hearing loss becomes more complicated. Several options exist to address single sided hearing loss.

– One approach is traditional amplification. This will be dependent on remaining function in the affected ear and ability to achieve audibility.

– Another approach is to reroute the signal to the normal hearing ear. This may be accomplished by use of a contralateral routing of signal (CROS) hearing aid or through bone conduction. Bone conduction can be achieved in either a high-powered hearing aid or a bone-anchored hearing device.

– Often the use of a cochlear implant can restore binaural hearing (using both ears).


Visit Us at Exceptional Hearing Care

Using advanced technology in modern hearing aids to address single-sided hearing loss, users can essentially hear with both ears, improving their ability to localize sound and understand speech from any direction. This can aid to improve overall health and safety, enabling the user to process sounds where ever they originate from. If there is any question in your mind you may be suffering from single sided hearing loss, contact us at Exceptional Hearing Care to schedule a hearing test today.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.