What Is Hearing Loss In One Ear?
Some people suffer from hearing loss in only one ear while the other ear functions normally. This type of hearing loss is known as unilateral hearing loss. The hearing loss can range from mild to severe. It cannot be taken lightly; in most cases, delaying its treatment leads to permanent deafness in one ear. Deafness in one ear is also known as single-sided deafness. Some people are born with unilateral hearing loss, or they develop single sided deafness later in their life.
How Hearing Loss In One Ear Affects Hearing?
Have you ever wondered why we have two ears? There’s a scientific explanation of having two ears. The brain coordinates the signals received from both the ears to determine the exact location of the sound. Hearing with both ears is known as binaural hearing. We can also determine the quality of hearing and the range. People suffering from hearing loss, particularly in one ear, have the following complaints –
Unable To Locate The Place From Where The Sound Is Coming
Our brain can determine the direction from which the sound is coming; this is due to a phenomenon known as sound localization. This is only possible when both the ears are functioning properly. Thus, hearing loss in one ear makes it difficult to locate the source or direction of the sound.
Difficulty To Hear Sound In A Noisy Environment
The brain can filter the unwanted sound reaching the ear. This ability of the brain is known as selective listening. It is difficult to do so when one of the ears is damaged. In a noisy environment, the person with hearing loss in one ear cannot differentiate between multiple sounds.
Unable To Determine The Loudness Of Sound
The sound reaching the brain from both the ears combined is louder than the sound received by the brain from any one of the ears. The sound reaching the brain when heard through both the ears is louder though the source is of the same intensity or loudness. The auditory nerves of both the ears receive sound signals and process the signals into information independently.
The Head Shadow Effect
People with hearing loss in one ear are likely to suffer from the ‘head shadow’ effect. If the sound is coming from the side, which is deaf, the person cannot hear until the sound travels across the head and reaches the other ear. The head shadow effect results in loss of high-frequency sound, which makes it more difficult to hear high frequency sounds such as ‘s’, “Sshh or ‘t’.
Single Sided Deafness Makes It Hard To Multi-Task
Due to all the above reasons, the brain has to work harder to understand speech and sound signals. It gets difficult to concentrate on other activities or multitask, especially when the environment is noisy. For instance, a simple activity like listening to someone and writing at the same time becomes difficult and stressful.
Causes Of Hearing Loss In One Ear
There are several reasons why people suffer from hearing loss in any one ear. Some of the common reasons for loss of hearing in the ear are-
- A blow or injury to the ear
- Continuous exposure to loud noises
- Taking drugs in excessive amounts or ototoxicity
- Any blockage in the ear due to an external object or excessive wax buildup
- Abnormal bone growth inside the ear
Other Health Conditions Which Cause Hearing Loss
Apart from injury to the ear or an ear infection, several other diseases can increase the chances of hearing loss in any one of the ears. In case you are suffering from any one of the following medical conditions, the chances are that it will develop into a hearing loss.
- Perforation or hole in the eardrum
- Acoustic neuroma
- Meniere’s disease
- Swimmer’s ear
- Otitis media with effusion
- Neurofibromatosis type 2
- Reye’s syndrome
- Temporal arteritis
- Vertebrobasilar insufficiency-
Ototoxic Drugs Responsible For Hearing Loss
There are several medicines prescribed by doctors for serious medical conditions that can cause hearing loss in one or both the ears as a side effect
- Drugs used for chemotherapy
- Furosemide which is a type of diuretic
- Toxicity due to salicylate
- Antibiotics such as streptomycin and tobramycin
Other Symptoms Of Hearing Loss In One Ear
Hearing loss in one ear is itself a sign of deafness. In addition to this, some other symptoms that a person is likely to experience include-
- Muffled hearing in the other ear
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- The feeling of some object inside the ear
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Increasing the audio level of the television or music system
Diagnosis Of Hearing Loss In One Ear
In case you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult an ENT specialist. The doctors will take your medical history and prescribe a hearing test. A hearing test generally includes checking the range of sounds and tones at various frequencies; the test will indicate the frequencies and intensity at which you can hear without any problem. Some of the common hearing tests include pure tone audiometry and tuning fork test.
Treatment Of Hearing Loss In One Ear
Based on the underlying cause of the hearing loss, the doctor suggests the appropriate treatment options. In severe cases of hearing loss, it won’t be treatable. For mild to moderate hearing loss, doctors recommend using a hearing aid. A hearing aid is an instrument that amplifies the sound entering the ear. There are several types of hearing aids–
Contralateral Routing Of Signal (CROS Hearing Aid)
This hearing aid is specially designed for people with hearing loss in one ear. It picks up sound from the deaf ear side and sends it to the functional ear.
Bone-Anchored Hearing Systems (BAHA)
This hearing aid is surgically implanted inside the ear. Sometimes it is not possible for the sound vibrations to reach the inner ear due to defect in the outer or the middle ear. The BAHA works by sending vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull.
These also need to be surgically implanted inside the ear; they work by stimulating the auditory nerve to function again. Find out how the Cochlear Implant works.
Eardrum Surgery Or Tympanoplasty
Due to repeated ear infections, the eardrum can get damaged, resulting in a hole. Ear perforation is a serious condition that can only be treated with a surgery known as Tympanoplasty. It is a process of patching the hole with tissue taken from the other part of the ear.
Although hearing loss is a common phenomenon, delaying its treatment can lead to permanent deafness. Fortunately, there are several treatment options to try for curing hearing loss in one ear. Consult an ENT specialist who can suggest the appropriate treatment after a thorough diagnosis.