Single-sided deafness is the complete loss of hearing in only one ear, which is more often than not, a permanent ailment. Although single-sided deafness cannot be cured, there are plenty of options available that will help to restore the sensation of hearing in both ears. Some people are born with the hearing loss, while others may experience it as a result of a different health condition or their environment. Most commonly, people who are affected by single-sided deafness are between the ages of 35 and 54.
Single-sided deafness is caused by a number of conditions, all of which will lead to different reactions in the ear.
- Physical damage to the ear
- Pressure on the nerve
- Inner ear issues: A viral or bacterial infection can create sudden hearing loss in one ear
- Tumors in the brain or ear: The presence of an acoustic neuroma or benign tumor may lead to damage to the auditory nerve, causing an individual to experience a complete loss of hearing.
- Severe Meniere's disease: Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that typically creates issues that cause a feeling of pressure, ringing in the ear (or tinnitus), or a sense of unsteadiness. Since this will generally affect just one ear, it could lead to single-sided deafness.
- Head injury or trauma: Trauma to the head can cause a fracture in one of the ear's bones and damage to the auditory pathway.
- Circulatory system disorders
The general conditions of single-sided deafness differ from person to person, but it will cause an overall sense of unsteadiness. People will typically have difficulty comprehending which direction sound comes from, and may even experience a sense of not hearing from one direction at all, which is known as the head shadow effect. Individuals with single-sided hearing loss will also have trouble with deciphering background noise from a targeted sound.
A contralateral routing of signal hearing aids (CROS) or bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) can transfer sounds that come through one ear into the other to create a balanced auditory sensation.
These types of hearing aids can be used as a wired or wireless device. The instrument consists of a receiver and another unit that has a small microphone, which is placed in the deaf ear. The receiver goes in the other ear so that when the sound goes through the microphone system, it is amplified in the normal ear. This makes it possible for users to hear noises from both sides of their heads.
Bone-anchored hearing aids are a newer alternative that involves a titanium implant in the bone behind the deaf ear. This device is used to process sounds that would normally go through the deaf ear, and it sends them though the skull bone. Then, the user can hear sounds from one side to the other, allowing for balanced hearing. This system is worn by approximately 15,000 people worldwide and has been used as a very successful treatment in Europe since the late 1970s.