If a person is unable to hear well from any one of the ears, then he or she suffers from hearing loss in one ear or unilateral hearing loss. We have two ears that pick up the sound signals and pass them on to our brain. Our brain analyses the signals received from the left and right ear and determines the location of the speaker or the source of the sound. This gives us a sense of localization of sound.
How Hearing Loss in One Ear Affects Hearing?
Our brain receives speech signals from both ears. In case of hearing loss in one ear, our brain receives proper speech signals from the good ear, but a reduced or no signal from the bad ear. In this situation, the person is unable to locate the exact source of sound or is unable to localize the sound.
Hearing loss in one ear reduces our ability to understand speech in noisy surroundings. Our brain filters out the background noise with the help of the signals received from both ears. In case of hearing loss in one ear, the brain’s ability to filter out the background noise is reduced. This makes listening in noisy situations difficult.
This can be very embarrassing during office meetings or at a restaurant where more than one person is speaking. It greatly affects our work productivity and social life.
Unilateral hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear sounds from one ear, while the other is normal. If the hearing loss in one ear is profound, it’s known as single sided deafness or SSD.
In the case of single sided deafness, the person is unable to judge the loudness of sound. Single sided deafness also causes listening fatigue as the person tries hard to catch the words in a conversation. This increases the stress level and reduces the ability to multitask.
Unilateral Hearing Loss Causes
The following are some of the unilateral hearing loss causes:
- Earwax Accumulation
- Ear Infections (viral or bacterial)
- Ruptured Eardrum
- Ménière’s Disease
- Acoustic Neuroma
- Abnormal Bone Growth in the Ear
- Physical damage to the ear
- Pressure on the hearing nerve
- Circulatory system disorders
- Genetic or inherited disorders
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Ototoxicity due to antibiotics
Sudden Hearing Loss in One Ear
Sudden hearing loss in one ear is a medical emergency. The loss is reversible if immediate medical treatment is taken. Early treatment may restore some of the loss. A window of 14 days is crucial for effective treatment, the chances of recovery decrease if the treatment starts after 2 weeks. Read in detail about sudden hearing loss.
Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children
Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) in children is very unfortunate, it has a direct impact on their education and healthy growth.
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children
The common unilateral hearing loss causes in children are:
- Otitis Media (Middle ear infection)
- Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Unilateral hearing loss in children can be broadly classified as under:
|Cochlear nerve deficiency||26–50%|
|Low birth weight||6–20%|
|In utero infections||3-7%|
Impact Of Unilateral Hearing Loss on Children
• Speech and Language development delay
• Communication and behavioral skills delay
• Social isolation and emotional issues
• Inability to learn new languages
• Inability to keep up with academics
Hearing Loss in One Ear Treatment Options
Surgical and non-surgical treatment options are available for hearing loss in one ear.
The surgical option is to remove the tumor or the excess bone growth. Antibiotics and steroids are prescribed to reduce infection or steroids to treat inflammation.
Hearing Aids for Single Sided Deafness
In case of unilateral hearing loss, a hearing aid is a good option if the bad ear has a moderate or severe hearing loss. A hearing aid may not help if it’s single sided deafness (SSD) or total deafness.
In the case of single sided deafness, re-routing of sound or contralateral routing of signal or CROS hearing aids are helpful.
How Does a CROS Hearing Aids Work?
Generally, a hearing aid is used in the ear that requires amplification. In the case of single sided deafness, one ear is totally deaf and no amount of amplification will help. The CROS hearing aids for single sided deafness pick up the sound from the deaf side and transmit the sound to the hearing aid worn on the better ear. This is contralateral routing of signal.
A person using a CROS hearing aid will not miss any sound signal or speech if anyone is speaking from the deaf side. The only difference is that the person will hear from only one ear, that is the good ear. Hence, determining the source of sound is difficult.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid or BAHA For Single Sided Deafness
If the single sided deafness is due to conductive hearing loss, a BAHA is a good option. The BAHA or the bone anchored hearing aid, as the name implies is surgically implanted in the mastoid, the hard bone behind our ear. The Implant picks up the sound, processes it, and transfers it to the inner ear through the skull. Effectively it helps the sound signals to bypasses the outer and the middle ear.
Cochlear Implants for Single Sided Deafness
A Cochlear Implant is a small sophisticated electro-medical hearing device that is surgically implanted. It helps people with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss to hear. The hair cells in the cochlea are damaged or dead in people suffering from sensorineural hearing loss.
The electrodes of the cochlear implant provide electrical stimulation or electrical pulses to the cochlea of the inner ear. These pulses reach our brain through the auditory nerve. The cochlear implant bye-passes the outer ear and the middle ear to directly reach the cochlea in the inner ear. Know how cochlear implants work.
Many people with hearing loss in one ear or unilateral hearing loss can hear by using one of the above hearing devices. In case, you suspect hearing loss, consult an ENT doctor or an audiologist immediately. They will guide you and recommend the right solution for your hearing loss.