When you hear sounds, you usually know which direction they came from, because sounds reach one ear microseconds before it reaches the other ear.
However, when you experience hearing loss in one ear – otherwise known as unilateral hearing loss – your ability to locate the source of a sound, understand conversations in noisy environments, or even tune out background noise is greatly diminished. And if someone addresses you on your “bad side,” you may have difficulty deciphering what they are saying and where they are located.
Unilateral hearing loss (sometimes known as single-sided deafness) is not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, over 60,000 new cases emerge every year in the U.S. alone. Unilateral hearing loss can be present at birth, develop slowly, happen suddenly, or progress over time.
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss
So if you’re only experiencing hearing loss in one ear, how should you treat it? Well first, let’s discuss some of the causes of hearing loss in one ear. Unilateral hearing loss occurs for a variety of reasons, including:
- Exposure to loud noise on one side (gunfire, fireworks, etc.)
- Injury to the ear
- Wax buildup or a blockage in the ear
Additionally, certain illnesses and medical conditions can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in one ear:
- Meniere’s disease
- Viral infections
- Ear drum rupture
- Acoustic neuroma
- Ear infections/swimmer’s ear
- Reye’s syndrome
- Temporal arteritis
Hearing loss in one ear can also stem from certain medications, including drugs used in chemotherapy, diuretics, certain antibiotics, or an overdose of aspirin.
Treatment for unilateral hearing loss
If you’re experiencing hearing loss in one ear – whether the onset was sudden or gradual – one of the first things experts recommend you do is seek medical treatment and get a hearing evaluation from an expert. A qualified hearing care professional can determine if an obstruction or wax is causing sound not to reach your inner ear, or whether your hearing loss is caused by something else, such as a sensorineural deficit or noise-related hearing damage.
Some causes of hearing loss in one ear – like wax buildup or illnesses and ear infections with fluid buildup – are treatable with medication, an ear cleaning, surgery, or can even naturally heal on their own.
However, if hearing loss is due to the function of the ear itself, a hearing aid can sometimes help restore a portion of your lost hearing ability. While hearing can’t always be fully restored to your “bad ear” certain hearing devices can restore the sensation of hearing from both sides.
If you experience hearing loss in one ear but still have good hearing in your other ear, you can use a contralateral routing signal system (CROS) to pick up sounds that enter your “bad ear” and wirelessly transmit them to your good ear. CROS stands for “Contralateral Routing of Signal” and consists of two parts:
This type of hearing device will transmit sounds and voices from your bad ear to your good ear, allowing your good ear to do your hearing for both ears. This type of technology allows you to hear and understand conversations in noisy or quiet environments without having to reposition yourself. This way, if someone addresses you on your “bad side”, you can still hear what they are saying because the sound is being routed to your good ear.
A trained hearing care professional can guide you through your options, and help you select the solution that will best fit your needs. Contact Connect Hearing to speak with a hearing consultant, or schedule an appointment at a nearby location to learn more about how to treat hearing loss in one ear.