Tilting your head to hear better? Pre-planning your seating arrangements so people sit on the good side? Are friends getting confused because sometimes you hear perfectly? In other cases, you don’t hear them at all.
Over 60 thousand people in the US are diagnosed with single-sided hearing loss, and it’s estimated that 24% of people have had to quit work because of it.
A more subtle side-effect is for people to start avoiding situations where they need to hear. Hearing loss in one ear can cause serious disability with serious consequences to lifestyle, relationships and health.
Yet many don’t get treatment. They think it’s somehow “not so bad” because they can hear in their other ear, when in fact it can be worse because what and when you hear is so unpredictable.
There are many reasons to stop the workarounds and treat single-sided hearing loss.
1. Hearing What’s on the Left from the Right
When you have one deaf ear, your “good” ear might still hear sounds coming from the “bad” side, but your head blocks and distorts those sound waves. Sound waves can move around objects. But as they do, they lose their strength and can become distorted. It’s like hearing the murmurs of a TV at normal volume from a different room. This distortion can lead to “mishearing” someone speak, or having difficulty locating sounds like oncoming cars.
In profound cases, this can be treated with a re-routing device that picks up sound on the side with hearing loss and transfers that sound to the other side. These devices can significantly improve hearing, although it may still be difficult to tell which direction sound came from.
2. Hearing with Your Teeth
Some re-routing devices work in ways you might not expect. How does hearing through your teeth sound? Some hearing systems involve wearing a wireless device that resembles a mouth retainer you might have worn after getting your braces off when you were younger.
3. Hearing with Your Bones
Some systems work by picking up sound on the impacted side. They then transfer the sound through your bone to the other, “good” ear in something known as bone conduction.
Bones are actually very effective at transmitting sound. They do it naturally when you speak.
That’s why your voice sounds so different on a recording. You normally hear your own voice through your bones, not as others hear you.
4. Cochlear Implants
For some patients, cochlear implant are the best option. These devices must be surgically implanted and bypass any damage to the inner ear by sending sound information directly to the brain. Not all hearing loss is the same. A hearing professional will evaluate you to determine what will work best for you.
For both hearing aids and cochlear implants, the longer you wait, the less effective they will be.
If cochlear implants are too expensive, even with insurance, talk to your hearing specialist about hearing aids.
5. Personal Amplifier Devices
When a person first starts experiencing hearing loss in one ear, they may choose to download an amplifying app. This app makes the sound louder and communicates with headphones you wear all the time.
Depending on the app, it may reduce background noise or otherwise work around your condition to improve hearing.
This is not a good long-term solution for most people. People with hearing loss don’t just lose the ability to hear lower volume. They lose the ability to hear various frequencies. Without certain frequencies, there will be gaps in what you hear.
6. Get Hearing Aids
First of all, If you’re thinking of just getting by with one ear, know this. People who get hearing aids say they’re shocked at how much better their hearing is when they can get sound from both sides.
Your ears are a package deal. Two are always better than one, and you need sound from both sides.
Get a hearing test to determine how significant your hearing loss is in the “bad” ear and whether hearings aids might help. Hearings specialists can do a complete a hearing evaluation and fitting to determine if a hearing aids are an option.
Untreated hearing loss can get worse over time and can even affect your “good” ear.
That leaves you with fewer options the longer you wait.
Treating Single-Sided Hearing Loss
Don’t just deal with it. Get a hearing test. Stay active and social with your hearing.
Discuss options with a hearing professional.