Unilateral hearing loss occurs when there is normal hearing in one ear, and hearing impairment in the other ear. Persons with this type of hearing impairment may find it more difficult to locate from what direction sound is coming, listening on the impaired side, and understanding in noisy backgrounds. However, if the conditions are favorable and the environment is quiet, many with unilateral loss will understand speech almost as well as those with normal hearing.
Causes and Treatment
Unilateral losses can be caused by head injury, acoustic tumors, birth defects, recurrent ear infections, and various disease processes, including measles, mumps, meningitis, and Meniere’s disease. Treatment varies based on the severity of the loss from use of communication strategies, hearing aids, or cochlear implants. Special types of hearing aids may be implemented depending on the location of the damage or dysfunction causing the impairment.
For those with sensorineural unilateral hearing impairment, a contralateral routing of signals (CROS) hearing aid may be used. Two “hearing aids” are worn. One is worn on the “bad” ear that picks up the signals and transmits/routes the sound to the “better” ear.
This helps the listener in situations where people are speaking on their “bad” side. It may also aid in localizing the source of the sound. Bone conduction hearing aids (BAHA) may also be used if the hearing impairment has a conductive component. Sound is transferred to the better ear by vibration of the skull.
Since hearing in background noise is often very difficult for those with unilateral impairment, both hearing aids and training in the use of the auditory communication strategies may be beneficial. Communication strategies may include:
• Positioning your better ear toward the sounds you desire to hear.
• Moving away from noise sources as often as possible.
• Turning down the background noise if possible (e.g., music, television, etc.).
• Moving closer the person who you are speaking with.
While many of these tips are natural to those with unilateral hearing impairment, they may not recognize that it is still beneficial to continue even after amplification.
Give us a call
It is recommended that those with unilateral hearing loss, periodically reassess their hearing status. Changes in their hearing may affect persons with this type of loss differently that for those with bilateral (both ears) hearing impairment. Speak with your hearing healthcare provider today about your options for your unilateral hearing loss treatment.