You may not realize it, but for many people, hearing loss isn’t always experienced equally in both ears. In the U.S. alone, hearing loss in one ear affects 60,000 people every year. 1 in 1,000 children are born with unilateral hearing loss, and 3% of school-age children have UHL. This type of single-sided deafness is also known as unilateral hearing loss (UHL). People who live with unilateral hearing loss face some unique challenges. Fortunately, with cutting-edge technology, there are a number of hearing aid options now available that are specifically designed for unilateral hearing loss. Allowing you to continue to live a full and active life.
What is Unilateral Hearing Loss and How You Can Manage It
Unilateral hearing loss is a condition in which hearing functions normally in one ear while the other ear experiences significant hearing loss. There are quite a few issues that can arise when you are experiencing UHL. For instance, you might have trouble following conversations in environments with lots of background noise, like public events or a dinner party.
You might also have trouble with sound localization (being able to tell exactly where a sound is coming from), tinnitus, and problems detecting sound from the side of the head that has hearing loss. If you live with UHL, you might often struggle in certain everyday situations and experience increased stress and anxiety. These issues occur because unilateral hearing loss interferes with what is known as directional hearing.
What is Directional Hearing?
Directional hearing is the ability to locate the origin of certain sounds – this is made possible by binaural hearing, or healthy hearing with both ears. Binaural hearing helps you to localize the source of sounds and filter out background noise. When you live with unilateral hearing loss, you might experience something known as “the head shadow effect”, where sounds that originate from the side of the head with hearing loss are not processed by the brain.
This is especially true of sounds that occur in the high-frequency range. Consonant sounds, compared to vowel sounds, are delivered in the high-frequency range, and so large amounts of a conversation can be missed if you have unilateral hearing loss. Without directional hearing, it can be extremely difficult to understand speech and successfully communicate in situations with lots of ambient noise.
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss
Experts have determined many causes of unilateral hearing loss:
- Congenital hearing loss
- Acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor growing on the auditory nerve
- Some viral infections
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Disorders such as Meniere’s Disease
- Childhood measles or mumps
Despite the multiple causes of unilateral hearing loss, there are a variety of solutions that can help you manage to live with UHL.
Come see us at Clark Audiology & Hearing Aid Center and learn about your options!
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