Hearing Health Blog

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

Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as a black and white — either somebody has healthy hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that dismisses one form of hearing loss entirely.

A 1998 research thought that approximately 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease in the moment. It is safe to say that amount has increased in that last two decades.

What’s Single-Sided hearing loss and What Makes It?

As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing just in one ear. The hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In intense cases, profound deafness is potential. The dysfunctional ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that person is left with monaural audio quality — their hearing is limited to one side of their human body.

Reasons for premature hearing loss vary. It can be caused by trauma, for instance, a person standing beside a gun firing on the left might end up with moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disorder can lead to the problem, too, for example:

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

No matter the cause, an individual who has unilateral hearing must adapt to a different way of processing audio.

Management of the Audio

The brain utilizes the ears nearly just like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it first and in the highest volume.

With the single-sided hearing loss, the sound will only come in one ear no matter what direction it originates. If you have hearing loss in the left ear, your mind will turn left to look for the noise even if the person speaking is on the right.

Pause for a minute and consider what that would be like. The sound would enter one side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual speaking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t deep, sound direction is catchy.

Honing in on Sound

The brain also employs the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the sound you want to focus on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear handles the background sounds. This is why in a noisy restaurant, you can still concentrate on the conversation at the table.

When you can’t use that tool, the mind gets confused. It’s unable to filter out background sounds like a fan blowing, so that’s everything you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The mind has a lot happening at any given time but having two ears allows it to multitask. That’s why you’re able to sit and examine your social media sites while watching TV or talking with family. With just one functioning ear, the brain loses that ability to do something while listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually lose 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 a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have long frequencies so they bend enough to wrap around the head and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t endure the trek.

If you’re standing next to an individual having a high pitched voice, you might not understand what they say if you don’t flip so the working ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear someone with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves that make it into either ear.

People with just minor hearing loss in only one ear tend to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to listen to a friend talk, for instance. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that yields their lateral hearing.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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