Do you struggle to hear out of one ear? It could mean you have a single sided hearing loss. Also known as unilateral hearing loss, it’s a condition which effects around 60,000 in the US. Even so, even more common is bilateral hearing loss, affecting one in eight people in the US, equaling approximately 30 million people or 13% of the population.
Why We Need Two Ears to Hear
In comparison, a unilateral hearing loss is rare. More commonly one ear has worse hearing than the other, but both have some degree of hearing loss. Many people think that because they can still hear out of one ear, there is no need to treat the other. On the contrary we have two ears for a reason. We hear binaurally or with two ears, to help us locate sounds. When we hear sound coming from our right, our right ear picks it up first and our brain can tell the sound is coming from the right. However, when sound from the right comes and the right ear has a unilateral hearing loss an effect called the “head shadow” occurs. The ear struggles to place exactly where the sound is coming from due to the “head shadow”, confusing the senses and making the risk of falls and accidents greatly increased.
In addition to issues navigating and being alert in your environment, binaural hearing helps us to prioritize speech in noise and differentiate the voice we want to hear from others when many people are speaking. Unilateral hearing loss can be difficult, dangerous and confusing at time to live with this condition, however with just a few tips, it will much easier to navigate living with single sided hearing loss.
Let Others Know About your Single-sided Hearing Loss
The sooner you let people know you have a single sided hearing loss the better. Single sided hearing loss is not visible which means you must speak up to get the help you need. Otherwise, you may spend years struggling to hear people when they speak towards the side with hearing loss, even when they are standing right next to you. When you tell people it’s also a great time to ask for accommodations. For instance, you could say “would you mind speaking into my good ear?” Once people know you have a hearing loss and know what helps you hear better, you have a chance to improve the quality and the connectivity of those relationships. Make it a habit and once you’ve told your close friends and family, tell your co-workers, bosses, baristas, servers, and everyone about your hearing loss condition.
Exploring Hearing Aids for Single-sided Hearing Loss
While in most cases hearing loss is permanent, it can be treated effectively using hearing aids. For those with single sided hearing loss, specific hearing aids are required to enhance your experience. CROS stands for Contralateral Routing of Signals and are designed for those with single sided hearing loss. You wear the CROS system in both ears and the sound detected on the side with hearing loss is transmitted directly to the aid on the “good ear” side, removing the head shadow effect. Similar to CROS are BiCROS which are designed for those with hearing loss in both ears, though one side is disproportionately worse.
Get More Out of Life When You Treat Your Unilateral Hearing Loss
It’s possible to live with single-sided hearing without reducing your quality of life, but it requires action. The first step is to schedule a hearing exam, however, all too often people stop there. There are a lot of factors which keep people from taking the next step and finding the best hearing aids for them. Many are concerned hearing aids will make them seem old or disabled while others are concerned by the high price point of the most advanced and supportive hearing aids. The Better Hearing Institute reports that on average, those with untreated hearing loss make $30,000 less annually than those with normal hearing. This alone should be enough to take the leap towards investing in your hearing. Hearing aids can help you stay connected and stay alert, able to connect to the people in your life and get the most out of life. Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today!