Unilateral hearing loss occurs when you cannot hear the well or sudden hearing loss in one ear. If the hearing loss is severe or serious, this condition is also called unilateral deafness. Unilateral hearing loss is not uncommon.
What is unilateral hearing loss?
Unilateral hearing loss can manifest as conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
If a patient’s sudden hearing loss in one ear, the hearing loss is said to be unilateral or one-sided. Conversely, when both ears are affected, there is bilateral hearing loss, also known as bilateral hearing loss. Unilateral hearing loss may be mild, severe, or profound and usually has a negative impact on the quality of life of the affected person.
When unilateral hearing loss occurs in a severe or profound form, it is also referred to as unilateral deafness because the person’s ability to hear is so impaired that they can no longer hear any sound in the affected ear. Specifically, unilateral deafness should be understood as a condition in which the person’s hearing ability is severely limited on one side of the head and fully functional on the other side (i.e., the “good ear”).
If the person has a severe or profound hearing loss, they usually hear with only one ear. This is also called unilateral listening, and technically, monaural listening. Unilateral deafness is also referred to as unilateral deafness.
What are the symptoms of unilateral hearing loss?
With unilateral hearing loss, only one ear is affected by the hearing loss. You can still hear sounds normally from the other ear.
Hearing loss may be sudden or gradual. Depending on the underlying cause of the unilateral hearing loss, other symptoms may occur, such as tinnitus, ear pressure, ear pain or dizziness.
Medical causes of hearing loss are always present and require treatment. The longer a patient hesitates about treatment, the worse the chances of recovery.
Therefore, affected individuals should never be satisfied with the fact that they can on the one hand continue to hear very well, but should instead contact an ENT doctor.
Why is unilateral hearing loss such a big problem?
Unilateral hearing loss can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Two functioning ears are essential to our spatial hearing. Our brain records tiny time shifts, where the sound is absorbed by our ears, and the angle of incidence of sound in the ear canal.
In this way, it can calculate the location of the noise source. If one ear is affected by hearing loss, the directional hearing will not work properly – which can lead to serious consequences.
To understand what the subject of unilateral hearing loss means for the affected person, one can imagine everyday life as follows: You can still hear all sounds, but you cannot or can only identify their source very vaguely.
If you are driving around town and hear a car, you don’t know how close it is or which direction it is coming from. Not only does this mean a great deal of personal safety, but it is a serious risk factor. Affected people can make their situation worse and their assessment of the danger worse.
What are the causes of unilateral hearing loss?
The fact that hearing loss is unilateral does not in itself indicate its cause. Unilateral hearing loss can be caused by a variety of reasons.
Inflammation of the ear canal
Fluid buildup in the tympanic cavity
Sudden hearing loss
How does an otolaryngologist determine the cause?
To gain insight into the cause of unilateral hearing loss, an otolaryngologist offers a variety of tests. During a recall exam, he asks the patient-specific questions about his symptoms to rule out the initial disease.
Otoscopic otoscopy provides information about the condition of the ear canal and eardrum. For example, the physician can often detect inflammation of the ear canal, otitis media or ear effusion.
The search can be further narrowed by various tuning fork tests. Hearing tests help to determine the frequency range affected by the hearing loss – thus, hearing tests can lead to conclusions about the underlying cause.
Blood tests and imaging tests (such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography) can also help provide insight into the cause of hearing loss. For example, sudden hearing loss can be difficult to detect and can be diagnosed by ruling out all other possible causes.
Unilateral Hearing Loss Summary.
Unilateral hearing loss is always a reason to visit an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Usually, some disorders require treatment.
Hearing loss in one ear is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as tinnitus, ear pressure, ear pain, or dizziness.
Unilateral hearing loss is problematic because directional hearing no longer works. Affected individuals find it difficult to adapt to their surroundings.
Various possible causes of unilateral hearing loss such as viral infections, ear canal infections, otitis media, Ménière’s disease, sudden hearing loss or skull injuries.
The otolaryngologist locates the cause with the help of examinations, hearing tests, and imaging.
Treatment is always based on the cause of the hearing impairment.
In many cases, the prognosis is good if treatment is started in time. However, in individual cases, the chronic unilateral hearing impairment may also occur.
If permanent unilateral hearing loss occurs, CROS hearing aids can help reduce the hearing loss and restore directional hearing.
If medically necessary, CROS hearing aids are covered by health insurance companies for a fixed amount. Many CROS hearing aids also have an integrated tinnitus silencer.
If you have additional questions about CROS hearing aids, contact your hearing aid acoustician!
How do you treat unilateral hearing loss?
Both surgical and non-surgical methods can be used to treat unilateral hearing loss. Hearing aids or hearing implants (such as bone conduction implants) are often used to treat unilateral hearing loss. Cochlear implants may also be used to treat severe unilateral sensorineural hearing loss when the cochlea in the inner ear is healthy. Treatment usually depends on the severity and type of hearing loss.
If the patient can still hear from the affected ear, hearing can usually be improved with the help of a normal hearing aid.
If the patient is almost or completely deaf in the affected ear, a special type of hearing aid may be used. These are called CROS hearing aids. CROS hearing aids send sounds and noises from the deaf person to the normal hearing ear. Today, most of these high-performance hearing aids are equipped with wireless transmission. A special version of the CROS hearing aid is the BiCROS device. This care is an option if the patient’s “better hearing” is also limited.
Implantable hearing solutions (e.g. bone conduction implants) are used to treat specific types of severe or profound unilateral hearing loss (unilateral deafness). Sounds and noises are transmitted from the deaf ear to the patient’s normal working ear on the other side of the head.
The treatment option you choose depends on the cause of your unilateral hearing loss, so talk to a hearing care professional to understand why you are having difficulty hearing and to find the best treatment option.