The Basics of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Most hearing loss occurs in both ears and is referred to as binaural hearing loss. However, others experience unilateral hearing loss, which means only one ear is affected.

This condition can pose its own challenges and sometimes requires different treatment methods as well.

What Causes Hearing Loss in One Ear? Close up of a woman's ear.

Unilateral hearing loss can occur for many reasons. It may happen due to:

  • Genetic conditions
  • Trauma or injury to the head
  • An acoustic neuroma
  • Viral or bacterial infections

Hearing Loss That Comes on Suddenly

If you experience sudden hearing loss in one ear, treat it as an emergency and seek help right away. The sooner you seek treatment the higher the likelihood that you can protect your hearing and avoid single-sided deafness.

Are Children at Risk for Unilateral Hearing Loss?

Both children and adults can experience unilateral hearing loss. Roughly 1 in 1000 children are born with unilateral hearing loss and 3% of school-aged children have some degree of hearing loss in one ear.

A child may be at a higher risk of developing the condition if:

  • They are born with certain genetic conditions
  • Their mother comes down with an illness while pregnant
  • They sustain an injury or damage to the ear

Children who have hearing loss in one ear may struggle with speech recognition and language development.

Unilateral Hearing Loss Makes It Harder to Locate Sounds

One of the biggest struggles for anyone who has unilateral hearing loss is the ability to locate sound. Your brain uses both ears to pinpoint the location of a sound. When you don’t hear well out of one ear it may be harder to locate where a sound or voice is coming from. This is especially true in places with more background noise like Happy Basset Barrell House.

 Hearing and the Head Shadow Effect

Hearing loss in one ear can make speech seem muffled. This is due to sound having to travel around your head from your impaired ear to the functional ear and is known as the “head shadow” effect. High-frequency sounds (such as consonant sounds) don’t bend around the head, which makes it difficult to understand what is being said.

Treatment Options of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Treatment often depends on the severity of hearing loss. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss in one ear, a hearing aid might be all you need. In more severe cases or in single-sided deafness your audiologist may recommend:

  • CROS or BiCROS hearing aids
  • Bone-anchored hearing systems
  • Cochlear implants

If you feel like you’re having difficulty hearing in one ear, contact Topeka ENT today to speak with an expert or schedule an appointment.

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