What are the Best Solutions for Single Sided Deafness?
Hearing loss is a challenge in every aspect of life. Not only is it hard to hear what other people are saying, but it becomes even more difficult when you are talking to others at events or in group conversations.
How often do you find yourself carefully positioning your chair so your “good ear” is positioned towards the speaker? Even if you aren’t consciously aware of these habits, it’s likely that you are making small adjustments throughout your day to favor the side that has better hearing.
The truth is that your brain needs equal sound coming from both ears. When the ears are balanced, it gives you the ability to localize the sound so you can see where it’s coming from.
Single-Sided Deafness: What is It?
Having one ear with hearing loss requires unique treatment compared to the approach for deafness that affects both ears. Single-Sided Deafness (SSD) means that you have either significant hearing loss or total hearing loss in one ear. Usually, this hearing problem is permanent – although it depends on the cause of the hearing loss.
Some people experience SSD overnight, while others have a gradual onset of hearing loss. There are times when the cause of SSD is unknown. But medical experts will check for other potential causes of hearing loss, such as:
- Trauma or injury to the ear
- Trauma to the head
- Infections within the ear, often caused by bacteria or viruses
- Brain or ear tumors
- Diseases such as Meniere’s, mumps, measles, or meningitis
Why SSD is Challenging
Hearing loss in one ear makes it challenging in a variety of day-to-day circumstances. One of the biggest challenges you will face is trying to understand where certain sounds originate. This issue is known as “head shadow effect” and causes you to have difficulty knowing the source of a sound.
When you have “head shadow effect,” it means that your deaf side can’t pick up the sounds of consonants. High frequency hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. Since the consonant sounds are high frequency sounds, these are lost first. Since consonants have a shorter wavelength compared to vowels, they can’t travel to your hearing side. For example, this would make it difficult to tell the difference between “sat” and “sad.” This effect is problematic because of the meaning that consonants carry in language, resulting in a lot of frustration when you a talking to other people. This problem is amplified when you are trying to communicate in an area that has a significant amount of background noise.
Hearing loss on one side poses danger in seemingly mundane daily tasks. For example, if you are outside exercising or trying to cross the street, then you might not have the right bearings regarding where sound is coming from. As a result, people with SSD might seem a bit jumpier and feel isolated in social settings.
Additionally, cognitive load means that someone has a hard time understanding speech while performing other activities or tasks. Even with normal hearing, it can be difficult to communicate while doing other things. When you add SSD, it takes the brain a longer time to focus so you can complete these tasks. This cognitive fatigue means that you are likely missing a significant part of what is being said when you are listening to some speak while completing a task.
Another common issue for people with SSD is when they are trying to communicate with others in a car. If the deaf ear is facing the driver or passengers, then it’s difficult to hold conversation.
Solutions for SSD
If you’ve been diagnosed with SSD, rest assured knowing that there are treatment options to support your lifestyle. But the approach is different compared to what is needed for hearing loss in both ears. Often, the deaf ear can hear nothing, which means that amplification doesn’t offer any benefit. No matter how loud a hearing aid makes the sound, you won’t be able to pick up enough to understand the speech or noise through that ear.
It’s important that you work with a specialist to find a hearing loss treatment that works for your unique situation. Here are a few treatment options that might be considered:
- CROS: Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) uses a transmitter used on the deaf ear to pick up sounds in the moment. Then, these sounds are sent to the receiver, placed on the ear that can hear. The goal is to move the sounds from the deaf side to the hearing side.
- BI-CROS: Bilateral Contralateral Routing of Signal (BI-CROS) is a solution that works best for people who have hearing loss in both ears. If one ear is deaf and the other can be amplified using a hearing aid, then the system combines the same CROS transmission technology explained above, with additional amplification on the receiver hearing aid worn on the ear with the most hearing.
- BAHA: Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA) have two parts. First, a transmitter must be surgically implanted so that it can send sound through the bone into the inner ear area. The second part is a small processor that attaches behind the ear on the outside of the head. This treatment is optimal for patients with mild or moderate hearing loss. Newer technology also makes it possible to use this technology without surgical placement.
- Cochlear Implants: Another option might be to use a cochlear implant which restores binaural sound processing by stimulating the hearing nerve. While this treatment is a possibility, it’s isn’t the right solution for every person since it requires surgery. Cochlear implants are used for people with profound hearing loss, and have more parts than BAHA: a transmitter, receiver, processor, and microphone. The structures in the ear are bypassed so the auditory nerve can be stimulated directly.
CROS and BI-CROS can be wireless, wired, or transcranial. BAHA and Cochlear Implants use equipment on the inside and outside of the head.
Personalized Hearing Loss Treatment
If you think you might need a hearing device, then the optimal approach is to work with a specialist for personalized recommendations. Our team offers in-depth diagnostics and treatments, with a variety of treatment options for SSD and hearing loss in both ears. We invite you to learn more by contacting us at Fairfax Hearing Center. We’ll schedule an appointment so you can talk to a hearing specialist.