Unilateral hearing loss vs. single-sided deafness

Unilateral hearing loss and single-sided deafness is similar but not the same

Hearing loss in one ear is called unilateral hearing loss or single-sided hearing loss
Hearing loss in one ear can be called either unilateral hearing loss or single-sided hearing loss

It is estimated that approximately 60,000 people in the United States each year lose the ability to hear in one ear. Losing hearing in one ear is also known as either unilateral hearing loss or single sided deafness. However the two terms are not 100% interchangeable, because while they both relate to the loss of hearing in one ear, there is a difference in the meaning of each term.

Single-sided deafness

When a person has one ear with normal hearing, but other ear has profound hearing loss (or no hearing ability at all), then audiologists call this single-sided deafness or SSD, for short.

Unilateral hearing loss

When one ear has normal hearing and the other has only a small amount of hearing loss, but not complete deafness, then that is what is called unilateral hearing loss.

The bottom line is that the difference between single-sided deafness vs. unilateral hearing loss is the degree of hearing loss.

What is the cause of single ear hearing loss?

Unilateral hearing loss or single sided deafness can be caused by a variety of conditions or circumstances.

They include:

  • Viral infections
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Head or ear injuries
  • Surgery intervention to remove brain tumors

What are the symptoms of unilateral hearing loss or SSD?

The symptoms of unilateral hearing loss vary person by person. They can include:

  • Impaired hearing in one ear.
  • Difficulty determining where a specific sound is coming from. 
  • The inability to separate background noise from a specific sounds you want to hear. 

What are the treatment options for these hearing loss conditions?

Many people can learn to adapt and live with unilateral hearing loss. Some need to make major life changes to cope. That could mean changing your work environment or rethinking where you live and moving to a quieter neighborhood, or a place with less noise. It could also require adapting your social life to avoid crowds, loud environments, and even gatherings thatinvolve large groups.

However, getting fitted for a hearing aid paired with small adjustments in lifestyle is often the best solution to avoid any major disruption to your lifestyle or work.  

To determine which condition is present, and to measure the degree of hearing loss is, an audiologist will conduct a hearing test and do an evaluation. Once it has been determined which condition is present, it can be treated with hearing devices.

What is the solution to single ear hearing loss?

If someone has hearing loss in only one ear, then the solution is simple: They can use a single hearing aid in the ear that his diminished hearing capacity. The ear with full function does not need a device because it is healthy and functioning normally.

In the case of single-sided deafness, a regular hearing aid is not helpful because that ear is no longer able to hear the amplification of sound. Instead, someone afflicted with single-sided deafness would be able to use a set of devices called a CROS.

What is a CROS?

CROS stands for Contralateral Routing Of Signal. Here is what that means. The individual wears two devices. One in the ear with normal hearing and one in the ear with deafness. The hearing aid in the normal ear receives a signal from the device on the deaf ear. It wirelessly sends the sounds that it picks up from its microphones across to the device on the normal hearing (That device is called a “contralateral” device.

This lets the individual hear sounds and conversations happening on their deaf ear side in their normal hearing ear. Sound collected on both sides of the hear is routed to the hearing ear. This lets them hear from any direction using only one ear.

What should I do next?

The next steps usually involve getting an evaluation from a certified audiologist and getting fitted with a hearing aid. If you’re interested, get in touch with us and we’ll help you find one of our authorized hearing experts, and setting you up with a hearing aid that is perfect for you, and your budget. Click here to contact us now.