Single-Sided Hearing Loss: The Signs, Causes and Treatment Options - Attune
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Single-Sided Hearing Loss: The Signs, Causes and Treatment Options

Single-Sided Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is challenging at the best of times. But in busy environments or in background noise, it can feel nearly impossible to understand what people are saying. In addition, if you’ve lost your hearing in one ear, you’re dealing with a whole set of unique challenges. 

“Single-sided deafness” (SSD) or unilateral hearing loss is described as a mild, moderate or severe hearing loss in one ear with normal hearing ability across frequencies in the other ear.  

Read more on different types of hearing loss here. 

What Causes Single-Sided Hearing Loss?

While some people are born with unilateral hearing loss, most develop it later in life.

According to Aussie Deaf Kids, approximately one in 1,000 Australian children are born with unilateral hearing loss. 

Unilateral hearing loss can have a range of potential causes, including but not limited to:

  • Meniere’s disease
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Physical damage to the ear
  • Head trauma
  • Tumours of the ear or brain
  • Circulatory system disorders
  • Genetic disorders
  • Diseases like measles, mumps or meningitis

It’s not always possible to identify what caused a hearing loss, and sometimes it’s a combination of several factors.  

When the hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of recovering your hearing. 

The Challenges Single-Sided Deafness (SSD) Poses 

Challenges Single-Sided Deafness

There’s a good reason we have two ears: Our brain needs both ears to predict a sound’s source and direction accurately. 

If you lose hearing in one ear, it can cause a range of problems – depending on the severity of your hearing loss.

If you have single-sided deafness, you may find yourself struggling with the following: 

  • Pinpointing where a sound is coming from 

Your brain can localise sounds by analysing which ear picked it up first. This is also referred to as sound localisation or directional hearing. 

If you suffer from SSD and can only rely on one ear, figuring out where a sound is coming from will be infinitely harder.

  • Having a conversation in noisy environments

Your brain usually is pretty adept at filtering out what noises are useful and which are not. This becomes a lot harder when you can only draw on one  ear. 

In noisy environments, such as bars or office spaces, you may therefore struggle to filter out a single person’s voice.

  • Telling how loud a sound is

When you receive sound signals from both ears, you simply have more information to process.

Your brain, therefore, perceives sounds at the same decibel as much louder when they are received through both ears as opposed to only one. 

This is also why you may find yourself cranking up the TV volume whilst your normal-hearing partner complains about the noise.  

  • Multi-tasking 

Because o the increased cognitive load on your brain, single-sided deafness can make it a lot harder to focus on the tasks at hand. 

The louder a space is, the harder it is to drown out the noise and the more you need to focus on understanding speech.

And since your brain is working hard to hear with one ear alone, it often becomes even more difficult to focus on other things.

Treating Single-Sided Deafness

Single-Sided Deafness

  • Hearing Aids

As so often, early intervention is key. Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, a hearing aid for the affected ear may be sufficient to address the problem.  

In babies and young children born with unilateral hearing loss, the early fitting of a hearing aid may stimulate the brain to use the remaining hearing in the affected ear and maintain neural plasticity.

  • Cochlear Implants

In severe cases of single-sided hearing loss or deafness, a cochlear implant may be the only solution to restoring your hearing may be a cochlear implant.

The first choice treatment for many years, cochlear implants stimulate the deafened hearing nerve and restore binaural sound processing.

This treatment option does offer the best outcomes but keep in mind that cochlear implants involve invasive surgery and subsequent auditory training, which health insurance providers don’t always cover. 

Click here to learn more about Cochlear Implants.

  • Contralateral Routing of Sound Systems (CROS) 

If you do not want to undergo surgery, don’t worry, there’s a solution for you too!

Severe to profound single-sided deafness, whilst often of permanent nature, can also be treatable with CROS (contralateral routing of signal) systems. 

CROS systems involve one transmitting device worn on your deaf ear to collect sounds and a receiving device in the hearing ear. 

What’s Next

If you are interested in learning more about the different hearing solutions for single-sided deafness or would like to have your hearing tested to find out why you are struggling with everyday communications, make an appointment with an accredited and qualified audiologist near you.

Your audiologist will perform a comprehensive hearing test to identify the cause and type of your hearing loss and from there, they will recommend a treatment path that may include a CROS, hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Not sure where to begin? To find out now if you need a hearing test, take our quick 2-minute test!

Enquire now