Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) can be any degree of (typically permanent) hearing loss in one ear when the opposite ear has normal hearing.
UHL appears in fewer than 10% of adults in the USA, with roughly half of those having a mild or moderate hearing loss.
We evaluate each case very carefully as some acute-onset unilateral hearing losses can be partially or completely reversed with timely medical treatment.
Key considerations for rehabilitation include the patient’s age, onset pattern and duration of the hearing loss, hearing thresholds, and speech understanding ability, as well as any additional symptoms such as tinnitus, vertigo, or dizziness.
Fortunately, today we have excellent options for supporting individuals experiencing UHL. The first option is using a traditional hearing instrument, which will depend upon the residual function of the involved ear.
The second option is a Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) hearing aid or, in some cases, a bone conduction instrument.
Patients with asymmetrical hearing loss may be a candidate for a Bi-CROS system, which is designed to benefit the better-hearing ear as well as bring in sounds from the poorer-hearing side. The system consists of:
1. The CROS transmitter microphone picks up sounds from the un-aidable ear and wirelessly transmits them to the hearing aid on the other side.
2. A traditional hearing aid on the better-hearing ear receives the CROS signal and then blends it with sounds from the better-hearing side at an appropriately amplified level.
Some individuals with complete hearing loss in both ears may benefit from a cochlear implant in one or both ears. Patients with just one cochlear implant may also wear a hearing aid, or CROS transmitter, on the opposite ear.
Unilateral hearing loss diminishes one’s ability to hear well in noisy environments, when the talker is at a distance, or when you cannot see the talker’s face. This can leave you feeling disconnected and embarrassed. Our audiologists offer many types of support for hearing loss, so don’t assume your situation cannot be improved before speaking with our highly experienced team.
At MacDonald Audiology, we always aim to find the right hearing solution for your personal situation. We encourage you to call our office to set up a hearing evaluation and discuss your specific needs.
For additional reading on what unilateral hearing loss is, here are some selected articles from Audiology organizations and universities.