Everything You Need to Know About Unilateral Hearing Loss

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Unilateral hearing loss (UHL), also known to as single-sided deafness, refer to a hearing loss deficiency involving one ear only. Its cause has a number of origins, including measles, labyrinthitis, Meniere’s disease, acoustic neuroma, meningitis, and injury to the ear, tumors, earwax build up, exposure to loud noises, or taking certain medications, such as diuretics or chemotherapy drugs. In a study published in the American Auditory Society journal Ear and Hearing in August of 1998, it was estimated that nearly 400,000 school-age children in the U.S. had unilateral hearing loss.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Your ears gather sound (acoustic) information both collectively and individually and relay those sounds to the area of the brain responsible for auditory reception. When only one ear collects sound signals, the auditory center has a difficult time complete the total acoustic picture. The brain needs well-balanced acoustic information from both ears in order to decipher which direction the sound is originating from.

There are a few clues that indicate that a hearing impairment might be unilateral hearing loss:

  • Trouble knowing where sounds are originating (known as localizing sounds)
  • Trouble hearing people talking on the hearing impaired side.
  • Trouble understanding conversations in the presence of background noise.
  • Trouble hearing sounds from a distance (i.e. hearing sounds outside or from another room).

Individuals with one-sided hearing loss don’t usually have problems hearing and comprehending one-on-one conversations, especially in a quiet environment. It’s when the environment contains background noising providing less than ideal listening conditions, that people with UHL struggle to hear.

Solutions for Those with Unilateral Hearing Loss

Treatment options for UHL depend largely on the cause. For instance, if the hearing loss was caused by a transient condition, such as labyrinthitis, the one-sided hearing loss will resolve itself once the condition disappears. If earwax buildup is the cause, removing the earwax can correct the hearing loss.

On the other hand, if the unilateral hearing loss is irreversible, a physician may recommend a hearing aid enhancement, such as CROS (Contralateral Routing of Sound) hearing aid for the affected ear. An audiologist can determine the best hearing aid for the severity of the UHL.

In addition, certain other UHL treatment options may include:

  • medications, such as steroids, to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • medications, such as antibiotics, to treat an infection
  • surgery to remove a tumor
  • surgery to repair an injury or deformity in the ear.

If you suspect that you or your child has one-sided hearing loss, schedule an appointment at My Hearing Centers today to get treatment for unilateral hearing loss.