Hearing Blog

Loss of Hearing in One Ear

February 15, 2022

When we think of hearing loss, we generally think of both ears being affected equally by hearing damage. However, this is not always the case, since hearing loss can affect one or both ears with varying degrees of intensity. When only one ear is affected by hearing loss, we call this unilateral hearing loss.

Various factors contribute to unilateral hearing loss. It may be caused by congenital birth defects, viral infections, and physical trauma to the ears, head or the neck. Even certain types of medications and surgeries may cause hearing loss in one ear. Other causes of this type of hearing loss include medical ailments like Meniere’s disease, swimmer’s ears, or even simply the accumulation of earwax.

Certain people who work in noisy work environments may also be prone to unilateral hearing loss. People who work with their head tilted to one side with the exposed side being bombarded with loud noises may suffer from hearing loss in the exposed ear. Manual laborers, musicians, hunters, combat veterans, and people in the construction and mining industry are all at risk for unilateral hearing loss.

Many people may take unilateral hearing loss lightly, since the other ear seems to be working fine. However, over time your other ear may become overburdened while hearing loss takes its toll on the brain and the other ear. This can deteriorate your cognitive skills, causes mental and physical exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and even put you at risk of endangering yourself and others. With loss of hearing in one ear, we are unable to locate the source of sounds, which can be dangerous in certain situations, such as when you are driving.

In order to avoid further hearing damage in the damaged ear, as well as protect the hearing of your good ear, it is best to get a treatment that helps both ears. This way you will be able to get a more balanced sense of sound without burdening one ear. This will reduce the mental strain on your brain and help keep your cognitive functions intact.

There is a different mode of treatment when it comes to addressing unilateral hearing loss. The most common strategy is called Contralateral Routing of Signal, or CROS for short. Although it sounds complex, it basically involves a microphone that is attached to the ear which has hearing loss. This microphone identifies sound signals and sends them to the functioning ear with a measured time lag. This helps you get a more natural, dimensional sense of hearing experience.

If CROS does not sound like your cup of tea, you can opt for other treatment options such as bone-anchored hearing devices or even cochlear implants. These both involve surgical procedures and are only recommended in case of severe hearing loss in the affected ear.

In any case, hearing loss is not something to leave unattended, be it in one ear or both. If you or anyone you know has hearing loss, talk to an audiologist about the treatment options available to you. Early treatment holds the best promise to help you get back to your life.