When most people think about hearing loss it’s generally assumed that the same level of hearing loss will be found in both ears, but this isn’t always the case.
Unilateral hearing loss, also sometimes known as single-sided deafness, refers to a condition in which a person experiences hearing loss to some degree in one ear but their other ear is operating at a normal level of hearing.
Affecting millions of people across the world, unilateral hearing loss can negatively impact your daily life if untreated. In this blog we will take a look at why it’s important to hear with both ears, what causes unilateral hearing loss and how it can be treated.
Why is hearing with two ears important?
Hearing well with both ears is absolutely essential to your quality of life. It means we are able to take advantage of our ears’ critical ability to identify the location of sound - a surprisingly important component of our ability to listen and to focus on sound effectively.
Hearing with both ears also helps make speech easier to understand in the presence of noise, as well as helping reduce fatigue and confusion brought on by difficult listening environments.
What causes unilateral hearing loss?
There are a variety of recognised causes of unilateral hearing loss, including:
- Physical trauma
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Circulatory disorders
What are the effects of unilateral hearing loss?
Just like any type of hearing loss, unilateral hearing loss can significantly affect your quality of life. In fact, hearing loss generally leaves people feeling depressed, distrusting of others, as well as generating feelings of being socially marginalized.
These feelings are most frequently brought up due to a person’s hearing loss making it difficult to pick out specific sounds and speech amidst a backdrop of noise - such as in a restaurant. As a result, unilateral hearing loss sufferers have to listen intently and strain if they want to hear a conversation.
In the long term, this has a negative impact on a person’s life - leading them to find it difficult to engage in conversations both with friends and colleagues at work, and leaving them with negative emotions such as:
- Feeling socially isolated
- Anxious and nervous in social situations
- And much more
What are the solutions?
In cases in which there is a total hearing loss in one ear, known as profound unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss greater than 91dB), there are medical therapies that may help to re-create some of the effects of binaural hearing (the ability to hear in both ears).
These include bone-conduction systems (also known as bone-anchored hearing aids, or BAHA devices) that can help transmit vibrations from the non-hearing ear to the functioning ear.
Contralateral routing of sound (CROS) hearing aids are also available that use a microphone in the non-hearing ear to transmit the sound to the hearing hear.
If you believe you may be suffering from hearing loss, early intervention is key! Contact the team of experts today at York Hearing Clinic and find out how we can design a solution for your unique hearing needs.