Because you hear with two ears, you might think hearing loss would affect both equally. This isn’t always the case, however. While most people with hearing loss in Phoenix experience it in both ears, a small number only suffer an impairment in one ear. This can make treatment a challenge.
Hearing loss that is confined to one ear is called unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness (SSD). Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with SSD every year, making it relatively rare. Single-sided deafness has a number of possible causes; the most common include:
- Acoustic Neuroma. A benign, slow-growing tumor that may grow big enough over time to press against the auditory nerve, causing a loss of hearing in one ear.
- Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). This condition, sometimes referred to as sudden deafness, is characterized by a rapid onset of hearing loss with little or no advance warning. It can permanently damage the hair cells of the cochlea, leading to SSD.
- Head Trauma. Accidents and injuries may affect only one ear, especially when the worst injury occurs on one side of the head.
- Other Diseases. Meniere’s disease, genetic disorders, labyrinthitis, microtia, mastoiditis, measles and mumps can all cause permanent hearing loss in one ear.
Single-sided deafness might appear to be the lesser of two evils – at least you can still normally in one ear, after all – but treatment is more difficult because hearing aids are far less effective in treating just one ear. People who suffer from unilateral hearing loss in Phoenix have trouble understanding speech over noisy backgrounds and find it difficulty to localize (determine the source) of sounds.
Treatment Options for Unilateral Hearing Loss
In almost every case, SSD is permanent and cannot be cured. And while conventional hearing aids aren’t as effective, Phoenix patients often benefit from Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) hearing aids. These devices utilize an amplifier/receiver placed near the normal ear; sounds are transmitted to a microphone next to the impaired ear, giving the patient better overall hearing and improved localization. A similar style called BICROS is recommended for those with some degree of hearing loss in one ear and total deafness in the other.
Another option for patients with SSD is bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA). These are surgically implanted and take advantage of the natural conductivity of bone to transmit sounds from the good ear to the bad one. Vibrations in the bones stimulate the hair cells in the cochlea, making it easier to hear.
The treatment you receive will depend on the extent of your hearing loss as well as the effectiveness of your unaffected ear. Your Phoenix audiologist will make a recommendation based on these and other factors.