women hearing out of one ear

What is Unilateral Hearing Loss?

What is Unilateral Hearing Loss?

Unilateral hearing loss is when someone experiences hearing loss in only one ear. It is often referred to as one-sided hearing loss or single-sided hearing loss. The level of severity varies amongst people from mild to profound. If the unilateral hearing loss is severe to profound, it is then referred to as single-sided deafness.

This type of  hearing loss is common and occurs in both children and adults. An estimated 60,000 adults in the US have unilateral hearing loss, and an estimated 1 in every 1,000 children has this type of hearing loss. 3% of all school age children have some degree of unilateral hearing loss. In children, this type of hearing loss can cause higher risk for speech and language development delays. 

Those with this type of hearing loss may have trouble hearing in noisy environments and have difficulty localizing sound, which means having a hard time determining where sound is coming from. People have reported feeling fear and anxiety due to their unilateral hearing loss.

How Does Hearing Work?

This type of hearing loss can be either sensorineural hearing loss, hearing loss is from nerve-related damage of inner hair cells, or conductive hearing loss, hearing loss from problems of the middle and/or middle ear. 

Normally, sound travels through your ear canal and causes fluid in your ears to vibrate. These vibrations are picked up by hair-like sensory cells in your inner ear and are translated into electrical signals. These electrical signals are then picked up by the auditory nerve and are finally sent to the brain, where it’s processed as sound.

Depending on the cause of a person’s specific unilateral hearing loss, the ear might have damaged sensory cells or a damaged middle and/or outer ear.

sound waves entering auditory canal diagram
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss
  • Genetics 
  • Result of trauma or injury to head
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Illnesses and deformities such as microtia, Meniere’s disease, mastoiditis, and maternal illnesses

This type of hearing loss can occur suddenly. Then it is a sudden unilateral hearing loss, a type of a sudden hearing loss. If you experience a sudden hearing loss in one ear, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. The quicker the treatment, the better are the chances of recovery.

Treatment of Unilateral Hearing Loss

There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options for unilateral hearing loss depending on the severity and type of hearing loss. Typically, this type of hearing loss is treated with hearing aids or hearing implants such as bone conduction devices. If it is sensorineural and the cochlea in the inner ear is still intact, a cochlear implant can also be used as a treatment option. If there is hearing left in the affected ear, it could be treated with amplification by using a normal hearing aid.

For those who have profound unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness, there is a special type of hearing aid called a CROS hearing aid that can be used as treatment. The CROS hearing aid sends the sound from the affected ear to the normal hearing ear. This transmission is usually through wireless setup, but it can also be sent through a wire from behind the neck.

Your Hearing Health Is Important

It is important to be proactive in protecting and maintaining your hearing health. A big threat to your hearing health is loud noise exposure, so make sure that you are doing what you can to minimize risks for hearing loss such as wearing ear plugs at loud events and keeping volume levels at a safe level. Here are some of AudioCardio’s recommended high-fidelity earplugs for loud events. 

If you suspect you might have this type of hearing loss, please consult a doctor or hearing professional to take a hearing test and explore your options. 

AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. Learn how AudioCardio can help maintain and strengthen your hearing with your favorite headphones or hearing aids at www.audiocardio.com.

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