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What are the causes of and treatments for hearing loss in one ear (unilateral hearing loss)?

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL), sometimes referred to as Single Sided Deafness (SSD), occurs when hearing loss is present in one ear and the other ear has normal hearing. It is more common for persons to have hearing loss in both ears similar in type and degree; however, due to various causes hearing loss can occur only in one ear.

Unilateral Hearing Loss can occur in both children and adults, and the loss can range from mild to profound (total deafness). Persons with unilateral hearing loss often have difficulty with hearing conversation on the side of the hearing loss, localizing sound and understanding speech in the presence of background noise despite the fact the other ear has normal hearing.

Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Often the cause is unknown when unilateral hearing loss occurs; however, the following are some possible causes: 

  • Trauma to the ear/head 
  • Excessive noise exposure to the one ear
  • Genetic or hereditary hearing loss 
  • Specific syndromes 
  • Various illnesses and infections

Treatment Options for Unilateral Hearing Loss

Treatment options depend on the exact type of hearing loss (sensorineural, conductive, or mixed) and the degree of hearing loss. However for unilateral hearing loss that is sensorineural or mixed, and medical intervention such as surgery has been ruled out by an Otolaryngologist, then two types of amplification may be considered:

Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) – consists of a hearing aid that detects sound on the side of the ear with hearing loss and routes the sound to the ear with better or normal hearing. Most CROS systems being used today consist of two behind-the-ear hearing aids that transmit the sound wirelessly.

Bone Anchored Hearing Implants – is a hearing aid that transmits sound on the side with hearing loss via bone conduction and stimulates the cochlea of the ear with normal or better hearing. According to a recent article published on Healthy Hearing, Bone Anchored Hearing Implants – Technology Marches On: “A bone anchored system consists of: a sound processor, an abutment and a small titanium implant that is implanted into the boney portion of the skull behind the ear. The sound processor picks up the sound waves around you (similar to a hearing aid) and transfers the sound to the abutment and the bone anchored implant. The sound is then transferred via bone vibration directly to the healthy inner ear (the cochlea) and bypasses the damaged outer and/or middle ear.”

For more information on treatments for unilateral hearing loss consult with a hearing professional specializing in the treatment of unilateral hearing loss and the mentioned treatment devices.

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