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What is unilateral hearing loss?

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) is a hearing impairment of one ear termed single-sided deafness, while the other ear retains some degree of hearing.

unilateral hearing loss

UHL can occur before birth and anytime through adolescence or adulthood for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the loss is caused by viral infections, Meniere’s disease, head or ear injuries and surgical interventions.

It’s not unusual to see a UHL sufferer physically position themselves with the good ear towards the speaker. Most UHL sufferers strain to hear the conversation, making it difficult to engage in communications.

On other occasions, the sounds or speeches are muffled in open spaces or rooms with background noise causing a UHL listener to miss parts of the conversation.

Hearing Statistics

In 2018 the Mayo Clinic cited 25 percent of the U.S. population (327,516,210) between the ages of 55 and 64 experienced some level of hearing loss. For those older than 65, one in two have hearing problems.

In 2014 National Center for Health (NCH) reported one in six adults 18 years of age and older reported hearing difficulties. The analysis showed that men were more likely to have hearing problems among three specific adult age groups.

  • 5.5% between 18 to 39 years
  • 19.0% from 40 to 69 years
  • 43.2% over 70 years

Complications and Effects

The National Center for Biotechnology(NCBI) reported that UHL effects varied among adults and children infected with hearing conditions. Adults reported feelings of depression, anxiety, or isolation. For some, hearing loss is a significant lifestyle change and coping with everyday activities at work and home is stressful.

Cognitive impairments in UHL children resulted in lower scores on academic tests involving word recognition, spelling, and language. These children tend to struggle in their studies and more often need to repeat grades.

Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Inner ear damages, aging, and exposure to loud noise can harm the hairs or nerve cells located in the cochlear. The cochlear is responsible for sending sound signals to the brain.

Disorders contributing to hearing loss include:

  • Abnormal bone growths or tumors
  • Ear infections
  • Ruptured eardrums (tympanic membrane preformation) occur with sudden pressure or inserting objects into the ear.

Listed are common symptoms associated with hearing loss for all ages.

Depending on the individual’s age, health status and the cause for hearing loss symptoms will vary.

  • Central auditory processing difficulties impact learning abilities.
  • Hyperacusis is a sensitivity to sound, volumes, or tones.
  • Tinnitus is the constant ringing or buzzing in the ear.
  • Vertigo causes an off-balance feeling or lightheadedness.

Traditional treatments consists of amplifying sound through the use of hearing aids to improve audibility. Medication, support therapy, and hearing devices can also help to manage the condition.

It’s important to talk with an audiologist or a hearing specialist for guidance on treatment options that work best for you.

  1. Contralateral routing of signals (CROS) involves two hearing aids. The receiver is placed on the weaker ear and transmits the sound to the second ear device.
  2. Bone-anchored hearing aids work for unilateral hearing loss using bone conduction methods.
  3. Cochlear implants work with severe to profound sensorineural (deafness) hearing loss.

It’s important to learn more about hearing loss and understand the effects that different treatment options offer. Left untreated hearing loss can have a severe impact on your health.