Generally, when people experience hearing loss, both ears are affected. However, some people may only have hearing loss in one ear, which can be either congenital or acquired. This type of hearing loss is referred to as unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness.
Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) is common and can affect people of any age. Approximately 60,000 new cases of UHL are reported every year in the United States. 1 out of 1,000 children are born with UHL, and 3% of school-age children have UHL. Also, over 7% of adults have UHL. Though common, leaving it untreated can impact a person’s socialization, learning, and ability to understand speech.
Avoiding exposure to loud noise can help prevent UHL, so:
Depending on the cause and severity of your UHL, your audiologist may recommend any of these options to help manage your condition:
Recommended for most instances of otherwise untreatable UHL, and optimized to increase the volume of the incoming sounds, so you can hear them properly.
Involves an external sound processor and a surgically implanted device to directly stimulate the hearing nerve (while routing around the damaged inner ear) to improve your hearing.
These systems use an external microphone – often placed in front of a person speaking – to wirelessly send signals to an amplifier worn in the ear.
For cases where the poorer ear has no or nearly no hearing ability, a microphone (appearing identical to a normal hearing aid) is placed into that ear, which sends signals to a device in the better ear. With time, the brain learns to differentiate between sounds heard with the good ear (vs. sounds sent from the worse ear), enabling the listener to better understand speech and to better localize sounds from different directions.
In cases where the hearing loss is caused by middle or outer ear issues, the still-healthy inner ear can be stimulated directly through the skull. This involves the surgical placement of a metal stud into the bone behind the affected ear. Once the surgical site has healed, a small box-like amplifier is attached to it. That amplifier conducts sound vibrations through the skull, allowing the inner ear to function normally.
Visit your audiologist if you experience:
If you or your child is experiencing UHL symptoms, schedule an appointment with our audiologist Dr. Chris Hoffmann, at Hoffmann Audiology for prompt diagnosis and treatment. With over fourteen years of clinical expertise in hearing test, she can treat your condition with desired results.
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