The Added Difficulties of Single Sided Deafness
The Hearing Clinic - Scarborough, ON

Man suffering from single-sided hearing loss is only experiencing one half of the world because he can't hear the other.

Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is much more widespread than people realize, prominently in children. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as a black and white — either somebody has normal hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one particular kind of hearing loss completely.

A 1998 study thought that around 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease at the time. It’s safe to say this amount has increased in that past two decades. The fact is single-sided hearing loss does happen and it brings with it unique challenges.

What is Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?

As its name implies, single-sided hearing loss suggests a reduction in hearing only in one ear.In extreme instances, profound deafness is potential.

Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It may be caused by trauma, for instance, a person standing next to a gun firing on the left may end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to the problem, too, such as:

  • Measles
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Meningitis
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Mastoiditis
  • Microtia
  • Mumps

No matter the origin, a person with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different way of processing audio.

Management of the Audio

The brain uses the ears nearly like a compass. It defines the direction of noise based on what ear registers it initially and at the highest volume.

Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear regardless of what way it originates. In case you have hearing in the left ear, then your mind will turn left to look for the noise even when the person speaking is on the right.

Think for a minute what that would be like. The audio would always enter one side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where an individual speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not deep, sound management is catchy.

Focusing on Sound

The mind also employs the ears to filter out background noise. It informs one ear, the one nearest to the noise that you want to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. That is why in a noisy restaurant, you can still concentrate on the conversation at the table.

When you don’t have that tool, the brain becomes confused. It’s not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that is all you hear.

The mind has a lot going on at any one time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s the reason you’re able to sit and read your social media account while watching TV or talking with family. With only one working ear, the mind loses that ability to do one thing while listening. It has to prioritize between what you see and what you hear, so you usually miss out on the dialogue around you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Impact

The head shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are inaccessible to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t survive the trek.

If you’re standing next to an individual having a high pitched voice, you may not know what they say unless you turn so the good ear is on their side. On the other hand, you may hear somebody having a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves which make it into either ear.

Individuals with only minor hearing loss in only one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to hear a friend speak, for example. For people who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid may be work around that yields their lateral hearing.

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