Although most people with hearing loss have similar hearing in both ears (bilateral), there are people who have asymmetrical hearing, or one ear is significantly worse than the other.
There is also a smaller percentage of people who may hear normally or near normal in one ear and have a significant hearing loss, or no hearing at all, in the other ear. This is what we call a unilateral (one ear) hearing loss.
What causes this? Many things could cause this.
Noise exposure such as firing a gun, head trauma, certain ear diseases (Meniere’s disease, etc.) or viral infections, history of ear infections or trauma to the eardrum, mumps or high fever, certain medications, stroke or cardiovascular disruptions, or even a benign tumor on the auditory nerve could all be possible causes.
If an asymmetric or unilateral hearing loss is diagnosed, medical evaluation is typically recommended to help diagnose or rule out some of the above-mentioned causes.
This is typically conducted by an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) or otologist (who specializes in ear diseases and treatment). Some hearing losses can even be present and diagnosed at birth.
IF you ever experience a SUDDEN onset hearing loss (usually one ear), seek immediate medical attention!! It is extremely urgent that medical treatment begins within 48 hours of the incident. Steroid treatment within 24-48 hours of onset is said to be around 85% effective, and acting quickly is crucial.
Since 90-95% of hearing loss is not medically treatable, hearing aids are usually the treatment recommendation. A complete diagnostic hearing evaluation should be conducted by a trained hearing professional such as an Audiologist or Hearing Instrument specialist.
Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, your ability to understand words, whether there is a binaural improvement (improved hearing with both ears compared to hearing in one ear at a time), etc., you may have some options when it comes to using hearing aids.
If amplification from a hearing aid would be beneficial in the “bad” or poorer ear, that may be tried first. If results are limited or if you have a “dead ear,” then a type of hearing aid called a CROS (contralateral routing of sound), or Bi-CROS may be recommended.
A traditional CROS system sends the incoming signal from the “bad” ear over to the hearing aid on the better ear. Depending on the hearing ability of the “good” ear, no amplification may be needed. A Bi-CROS system works in the same way, but it also amplifies the incoming sound into the better ear based on the hearing level of that ear. This is all done wirelessly and in real-time!
If you or a loved one is concerned about hearing loss and would like to speak to a professional, our team of highly trained hearing care professionals at Audiology on Call can help.
We look forward to hearing from you!