Causes of unilateral hearing loss
Unilateral hearing loss can be caused by a number of things, including:
- Injury to the ear or head
- Perforated eardrum
- Ménière’s disease (a chronic condition affecting the inner ear)
- Mastoiditis (an infection of the bone behind the ear)
- Labyrinthitis (an inner ear infection)
- Microtia (a congenital condition that affects the development of a child’s ears)
- Viral infections like measles, mumps and meningitis
- A benign tumour on the nerves in the ear (acoustic neuroma)
- Impacted earwax or an object in the ear
Symptoms of unilateral hearing loss
The most obvious symptom of unilateral hearing loss is the difference in hearing levels between your ears. One will retain its normal levels, and the other has an obvious difference.
As well as this, people with this type of hearing loss often find it difficult to separate background noise from the sound they want to focus on, like when someone is speaking. You might also find it difficult to interpret which direction certain sounds are coming from.
Treatment for unilateral hearing loss
Treatment will depend on the extent of your hearing loss, and what its underlying cause is. Generally, treatment options include things like:
- Antibiotics to clear an infection
- Removing impacted earwax or a foreign object from the ear
- Hearing aids
- Surgery to repair any damage causing the hearing loss
An audiologist will be able to determine how your hearing is affected and will suggest the right treatment option for you.
Profound unilateral hearing loss
A profound hearing loss in one ear means that you are unable to hear anything at all in one ear, while the other ear retains normal hearing. It’s also sometimes referred to as single-sided deafness.
People with complete hearing loss in one ear will usually find it very difficult to hear conversations in busy environments, which can be frustrating and isolating.
Living with single-sided deafness
If you have profound unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, it can be difficult to live with. But there are some things you can do to help:
Hearing aids for single-sided hearing loss
If hearing loss is having an impact on your lifestyle, you might benefit from CROS hearing aids, which is a hearing system designed for people with a unilateral hearing loss.
People with this kind of hearing aid will need to wear a device in both ears. One is worn on the side that has the hearing loss and the information collected is then transmitted across to the good ear, which is wearing the receiver. This helps to collect sound that would usually not be heard.
For existing hearing aid wearers in situations where hearing is more difficult (like if you’re in a busy place), you might find it helpful to use an assistive device, such as a remote microphone. The remote microphone helps by being close to the speaker(s) and streaming the signal directly to the hearing aids, cutting out some of the background noise.
What can cause unilateral hearing loss?
There are a number of possible causes behind unilateral hearing loss, including: an ear or head injury, a perforated eardrum, Ménière’s disease, mastoiditis, labyrinthitis, microtia, viral infections (measles, mumps or meningitis), acoustic neuroma, impacted earwax.
Is unilateral hearing loss considered a disability?
Any type of hearing loss can be considered a disability as it can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate and carry out day to day activities.
If you have a type of hearing loss and wear hearing aids you can also claim for a Disabled Persons Railcard.