If you hear well in one ear but not in the other, you likely have what’s called single-sided hearing loss (SSHL) or unilateral hearing loss. About 60,000 people of all ages in the US only have a hearing loss in one ear rather than both.
Single-sided hearing loss can be mild, moderate, or severe, and the hearing loss can occur suddenly or gradually over time. Unfortunately, most people with this type of hearing loss don’t have it treated.
In children, untreated SSHL can lead to behavioral problems, academic difficulties, and impaired language development. Studies show that 24%–35% of children with SSHL fail or have to repeat at least one grade.
Fortunately, hearing loss in one ear can be treated and it works by a process of balancing.
Below, we’ll explain more.
What Causes Hearing Loss in One Ear?
There are many causes of SSHL, and it can be present at birth or develop later in life. Also, it’s important to note that it’s not always one thing that causes it but more likely a series of factors that add up to the eventual hearing loss on that side, such as:
- Genetic tendency to hearing loss
- An abnormality of the inner, outer, or inner ear
- Certain medical conditions or syndromes
- Damage to the ear, such as perforating the eardrum with a Q-tip
- Something as simple as a buildup of earwax
- Ear infections – they can cause fluid to build up in the ear canal or inner ear
- Brain trauma or injury
How to Identify SSHL in Yourself or a Loved One
The top signs of one-sided hearing loss are:
- Difficulty hearing conversations
- It sounds like you’re listening to someone from inside a tunnel
- Trouble hearing when there’s background noise
- A ringing or buzzing sound in the affected ear (tinnitus)
In children, if your child tends to turn their good ear toward you while you’re talking, or if they don’t hear you well when your back is turned, they might have a bilateral or unilateral hearing difficulty.
Testing for Single-Sided Hearing Loss
If you think you or your child may have a hearing loss in one ear, it’s important to see an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation. This will help to determine the cause and severity of the hearing loss.
When testing if hearing loss is unilateral, we check for word recognition in each ear at a time, giving you a hearing score for each side, in addition to evaluating your hearing for both sides at the same time.
The results of a hearing test at All About Hearing are always immediate, so we will explain the results and recommend a hearing treatment plan if the test shows a bilateral or unilateral hearing loss.
How to Treat SSHL
If the one-sided hearing loss is sudden, we only have a short window of time of one to three days to treat it. After that, the damage can be permanent.
- Sudden hearing loss can be treated with corticosteroids or surgery (if it’s caused by trauma).
- If the hearing loss on one side has developed gradually, SSHL is usually treated with prescription hearing aids or specialized prescription hearing aids, such as the CROS or BiCROS hearing aid, or other assistive devices.
- In some cases, surgery may be needed — if there’s an issue in the brain that needs correction — in which case we will refer you to one of the trusted specialists in our network.
CROS and BiCROS Hearing Aids
CROS (contralateral routing of signals) hearing aids are prescribed for people with a profound hearing loss in one ear, and they work by receiving sounds from the deaf ear and transmitting them over to the “good” ear. This makes word recognition easier.
BiCROS hearing aids are for people with a mild to moderate hearing loss in one ear and a moderate to profound hearing loss in the other. They are designed to amplify and clarify sound in both the affected ear and the unaffected ear. This can help to improve your hearing on both sides.
The added benefit of both CROS and BiCROS hearing aids is their ability to keep stimulating the auditory nerve on the side with poorer hearing so it doesn’t degenerate from lack of use.
Get Help for One-Sided Hearing Loss in Midland and the Permian Basin’s Communities
If you have SSHL, it’s important to see an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation. An audiologist can determine the cause of your hearing loss and develop a treatment plan to help you manage your condition.
Book a hearing test for yourself or a loved one, and feel free to call us at (432) 689-2220 with any questions about hearing loss or one-sided hearing loss. No matter what your hearing issue is, we’re here to help you hear the life that you love.