It is common to see binaural hearing loss in most individuals, meaning both ears are affected. However, due to certain causes such as infections or genetic causes, some people will develop one-sided deafness. This can develop either at birth or later in life and is referred to as Unilateral Hearing Loss. It is called Single Sided Deafness when the degree of hearing loss is profound or near profound.
This loss can occur gradually or all of a sudden. When it occurs suddenly it should be considered a medical emergency. This is known as Sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
How exactly does one-sided deafness affect the quality of life of an individual?
Losing hearing in one ear creates unique challenges for hearing sounds. It depends on the severity of the problem as well. Some of the problems which are commonly faced by such individuals include the following:
Cannot identify the direction from which sound comes
Struggle to hear in noisy environments
Difficult to understand how loud a sound is
Struggle to multitask
Difficulty in conversing in a group
Another common problem that an individual with single-sided deafness experiences is what we call a head shadow effect. The head essentially acts as a shield blocking sounds from the poorer ear from reaching the better ear side. This will result in missing out on high-frequency sounds such as “s” or “f” and will make the sound muffled overall.
What could be the possible causes of single-sided deafness? It could occur because of infections or even other neurological conditions such as Meniere’s Disease, Acoustic Neuroma, Viral or Bacterial Infections, Physical damage to the ear, problems with blood circulation, or even genetic or inherited disorders.
If the loss is sudden, quick medical treatment is required to attain full recovery. The most common option will be steroids which will be prescribed by the ENT. After the medical intervention, if the hearing loss persists, then one can go for hearing aids. For people with mild to moderate hearing loss, a hearing aid would be sufficient to amplify the sound you are not hearing. In case of severe to profound loss, one can go for CROS hearing aids, BiCROS, or even a Bone anchored hearing system.