There are many different types of hearing loss, with some that have been with patients since birth and others coming on more suddenly. If you are unable to hear out of one ear, that is known as unilateral hearing loss, and involves a special set of circumstances both in diagnosis and treatment.
Unilateral hearing loss happens when one ear is able to hear normally, while the other one has a reduction in hearing. This condition can be quite mild, but also quite severe, depending on your personal circumstances. The mystery of unilateral hearing loss is that it can happen from birth, or hearing loss can develop later in life. It can also be gradual or sudden. If you are unable to hear at all out of one ear, that is known as single-sided deafness, or SSD. This unilateral hearing loss is so severe that you are considered deaf, and your hearing is non-functional.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, an estimated 60,000 Americans have unilateral hearing loss, and it equally affects all genres and ages. Additionally, 1 child in 1,000 is born with unilateral hearing loss, and approximately 7% of adults in the U.S. have unilateral hearing loss. That is a large chunk of the population that is affected by unilateral hearing loss.
One Sided Problems
When both of your ears do not hear equally, there are many problems that occur because of that. A patient might not be able to detect where sound is coming, for instance. Another problem with unilateral hearing loss is that it can be difficult for people to hear and understand speech, especially in crowded, noisy environments like restaurants or bars. Additionally, a patient might find it difficult to hear clearly and loudly, as the sound could be of a more muffled quality and the volume could be more diminished. Finally, patients who suffer from unilateral hearing loss can find it difficult to tune out background noises. Clearly, we hear best with two ears, so it is best that we try to mitigate the problems that cause unilateral hearing loss. Sound localization requires two hearing ears, and will make a person much more able to understand the world around them.
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss
So what causes this puzzling, profound problem? There are several situations that could cause someone to lose hearing in one ear, whether suddenly or gradually. If patients know what to look for, they will be more able to solve the problem should it occur.
Ear infections cause fluid to build up in your ear canal, and can result in hearing loss in one ear. For the most part, this hearing loss will be temporary. The result of bacterial or viral infections, you might be prescribed antibiotics if there is severe pain involved with your ear infection.
Ear wax build up has also been known to cause hearing loss in one ear. Ear wax is meant to protect your ear, the canal, and your precious sense of hearing. If it does not dissolve like it usually does, a doctor may need to use a small curved instrument to take it out. In severe cases, an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) may be called. Once the ear wax is removed, hearing should return to normal.
A ruptured eardrum is no joke, and can definitely lead to unilateral hearing loss. Whether it burst due to an explosion, flight pressure, an infection, or something being stuck in your ear, this can definitely impede your hearing. The best cure for a ruptured eardrum is prevention. Cover your ears!
Abnormal Bone Growth
Although not as common as the reasons above, abnormally growing bones can also cause unilateral hearing loss. This condition is known as otosclerosis. You may need a hearing aid or surgery to fix this problem.
Ménière's disease is a particular ear disorder that creates many symptoms in patients, including hearing loss. Patients may feel dizzy, have a ringing in their ears, or have ears that feel “full”. Consulting your doctor quickly can mitigate the problems associated with this disease.
Living with unilateral hearing loss can be difficult, but there are some ways to solve the problem. Consulting a doctor to understand exactly what you are dealing with is an excellent first step.
“Most of these conditions require a full workup with an otolaryngologist or specialist for treatment,” Kaitlin Anderson, AuD, CCC-A, a clinical audiologist with Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, Illinois tells WebMD Connect to Care. Once you have consulted a doctor and understand exactly what is going on, it is time to think about solving the problem. There are several ways to do this. If you have a problem, ensure that you find the right doctor. If your hearing loss comes on gradually, go to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist. On the other hand, if you suspect hearing loss, you should head to an audiologist.
With diagnosis in hand, you will be able to find the correct solution for your particular problem. Hearing loss is definitely a treatable condition.
- A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that will allow you to hear better. Along with an external sound processor, this device bypasses the “broken” part of the ear so that you can hear. Hopefully, this device will be able to provide hearing to the weaker ear.
- A hearing aid is the most common solution for unilateral hearing loss. It will be particularly programmed to increase the loudness of incoming sounds to make them audible and compensate for your hearing problems.
- A CROS, or contralateral routing of signal devices, is actually two devices, one of which is a hearing aid. The hearing aid is worn on the better ear, and the other device contains a microphone that will pick up the sounds from the weaker side. This in turn will help you pick up sounds.
- A bone conduction hearing system offers an external sound processor that attaches to a headband, which tries to pick up sound from the poorer-hearing side and send it to the bone conduction side. This assists you with hearing sounds on your weaker side.
- FM systems use radio waves to send speech from a microphone to a receiver. You can therefore hear voices more loudly and clearly if you are near background noise. Often school children will use these devices.
Unilateral hearing loss affects a person’s sound localization, which makes it difficult to distinguish sounds, especially in a crowd. There are several causes of unilateral damage that can be treated, and also a variety of tools that can help with unilateral hearing damage should it occur. Contact Nano Hearing Aids for all of your hearing aid needs today!