By Dr. Andrea Livingston
Single-sided deafness (SSD) or unilateral hearing loss is a condition in which an individual experiences hearing loss in only one ear, but can hear normally out of the other ear. While the majority of patients with a hearing impairment suffer from bilateral (two-sided) hearing loss, SSD is diagnosed in approximately 60,000 people in the United States each year.
It can be difficult for patients with SSD to understand speech in the presence of background noise. Sound localization can also be a problem because identifying the location of a sound depends on subtle hearing cues from both ears. Other symptoms of SSD might include anxiety, stress, social isolation, dizziness, difficulty paying attention and speaking loudly.
There are are many health conditions that may result in SSD. They include trauma to the head, genetic disorders, Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, microtia, mastoiditis, and common childhood diseases such as measles and bumps. The most common cause of SSD is is an acoustic neuroma, a benign and slow growing tumor that can push against the auditory nerve and affect the ability to hear properly in one ear.
While there is no cure for single-sided deafness, options exist for helping patients cope this condition. Traditional hearing aids do not currently offer much help to those suffering from SSD, but Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) hearing aids can improve hearing and localizing sound by transmitting sound to the ear with normal hearing. A similar device known as BiCROS is suitable for individuals with some degree of hearing loss in one ear and total deafness in the other.
Another option is a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA), a surgically implanted device that uses direct bone conduction to transmit sounds from the affected ear to the normal one. Vibrations in the bones of the ear canal and middle ear stimulate the hair cells of the cochlea, boosting the ability to hear.
If you are suffering from SSD, speak with your audiologist to learn about the options that are best for you. With no sure for SSD, an audiologist can help you find an option to improve your condition.
Dr. Andrea Livingston is one of Highlands County’s premier audiologists and is considered an expert in hearing loss evaluation and treatment. She offers cutting-edge hearing evaluations and a wide-range of hearing device technology at her practice, Central Florida Hearing Services in Sebring.