Man holding hand up to his ear suffering from single sided deafness.

What is single sided hearing loss? It’s a condition in which you’re completely unable to hear out of one of your ears. If you’re struggling with single-sided deafness, here are 7 tips to make life a little easier.

Carla has been playing musical chairs for some time now. The 43-year-old from Kentucky has single-sided hearing loss. Carla isn’t alone. Every year, this condition has nearly 60,000 new people in the United States playing musical chairs to hear better.

Carla is also playing musical chairs. She always arrives at meetings early so that she can choose the seat that allows her functioning ear to face the speaker. Unfortunately, she admits it doesn’t always work because her boss likes to move around.

When she’s out at a restaurant with friends, she quickly assesses the table to make sure she’s in the chair that gives her both the best ability to hear her friends and the server.

Activities that once would have been no-brainers now require some significant forethought and reorganization. She’s even developed some mild anxiety about the possibility of arriving somewhere late and needing to ask others to accommodate her. But then Carla learned some tips for living with single-sided hearing loss that have changed how she manages her condition.

1. Let Others Know About Your Single-Sided Deafness

Don’t hide the fact that you’re unable to hear out of one ear. People are able to, and often want to, help. But they can only do so if they are aware that you struggle to hear them when they’re on your “bad ear” even when they are standing right next to you.

It’s likely that you had no problem telling your family and close friends. But often people struggle with telling co-workers, bosses, baristas, servers and strangers.

Telling people about single-sided hearing loss is a lot like pulling off an adhesive bandage. It gets harder if you wait. It gets more painfully awkward if you try to dance around the issue slowly.

The ideal time to inform them is when you’re meeting them for the first time, during introductions. Eliminate any awkwardness in the future if you have to ask them to repeat what they have said.

2. Specify Your Needs

Be as clear as possible when you have to tell others how they may be able to help you hear better. For example, asking them to sit on your left or right side or look at you directly when speaking leave no room for uncertainty.

Because single-sided hearing loss isn’t visible, it’s just too easy for those not close to you to forget that you’re unable to hear in one ear. Be prepared to remind them how they can help gently.

3. Use Non-Verbal Cues When Speaking with Someone

Instead of verbally interrupting a conversation you may be having, indicate that you need someone to speak louder by cupping your hand behind your functioning ear.

Unable to hear your granddaughter tell you about her day? Lean closer, without invading her personal space. This is an easy and subtle way to remind her to speak into your good ear.

4. Be Comfortable About Your Single-Sided Hearing: It Puts Others at Ease

Many people get nervous. They become uncertain how to act when they meet someone who has a need. Demonstrating that you’re comfortable talking about your hearing challenges helps others relax.

If you’re comfortable doing so, encourage others to ask questions about your condition. If all else fails, try a little humor. Laughter breaks down barriers between people. It makes others less hesitant to try again to have a conversation with you. Try a joke like:

So I told my hearing specialist as he looked into my left ear (the bad one), “I think I’ve got single-sided hearing loss!”
“Ok,” she said. “What are the symptoms?”
I looked at her a little confused. “It’s a popular TV show with a kid named Bart. But what’s that got to do with my problem?”

Not only are jokes a great ice-breaker. If you incorporate which ear you can’t hear with, they’ll more easily remember which side to stand on.

5. Interrupt in Moderation

If you have single-sided deafness, sometimes it’s necessary to interrupt the conversation to ask for clarification. But it should be done in moderation.

If you miss a few words in a social conversation, you may be able to gather what was meant after the speaker continues to speak for a few sentences.

6. Repeat What You Think You Heard

When you do ask for clarification, voice what you think you have heard and ask for verification. This way, the speaker won’t have to repeat everything they said.

7. Explore Hearing Aids for Single-Sided Hearing Loss

Advanced hearing aids today can transfer sound wirelessly from the impacted side of your head to the other ear. Some hearing aids work by transferring sound through the jaw bone to the other ear. This can make it easier to know which side the sound originated on. These hearing aids can work even if you have hearing loss in your “good ear”.

It’s possible to live with single-sided hearing without reducing your quality of life. Getting yourself and others accustomed to the condition will require some patience and a willingness to be accommodating. But most people are more than happy to help.

If you need help living with single-sided deafness, don’t hesitate to speak with a hearing health specialist today.