Single-Sided Deafness (SSD) is a type of hearing loss where one ear has normal hearing and the other has severe or profound hearing loss. SSD can be caused by trauma, infection, tumour growths, or acquired as part of another disorder such as Meniere’s disease.
Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, someone with SSD may have difficulty hearing conversations in loud environments, understanding speech, or distinguishing between different sounds.
What are the Symptoms of Single-Sided Deafness?
The main symptom of SSD is reduced hearing in one ear. Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty understanding speech or other sounds in loud environments
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Problems with balance.
How is Single-Sided Deafness Diagnosed?
A doctor will typically start by performing a physical exam and then order an audiogram to measure the difference in hearing levels between the two ears.
This test produces a chart (audiogram) showing how much sound of different frequencies the patient can hear in each ear. Depending on the results of the audiogram, a doctor may order additional tests to determine the cause and extent of the hearing loss.
How Does Single-Sided Deafness Affect Quality of Life?
1) It can be challenging to locate sounds
Your brain determines the source of a sound based on which ear receives it first, known as sound localization or directional hearing. If someone has hearing loss in one ear, they may struggle to identify the origin of sounds.
2) Hearing in noisy environments can be challenging
Your brain is responsible for selective listening, filtering out irrelevant noises. However, without the aid of a second ear, this becomes more difficult. Individuals with single-sided deafness (SSD) often struggle to concentrate on a single person’s voice in a noisy setting.
3) Determining the loudness of a sound can be more challenging.
When a sound is perceived through both ears, the brain registers it as louder compared to when the same sound, at the same decibel level, is heard through only one ear. This is because the brain receives signals from nerves located in both ears, allowing it to process sounds more effectively.
4) It can be challenging to multi-task
This condition puts additional cognitive strain on your brain, resulting in listening fatigue. The presence of background noise further hampers your ability to focus on tasks. Moreover, if you’re trying to listen to someone speaking, you might miss out on a significant amount of the conversation.
Treatment Options for Single-Sided Deafness
The primary treatment option for SSD is hearing aids, which are devices that amplify sound so it can be better heard by the affected ear.
In cases of severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be recommended. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that bypass damaged hair cells in the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
Other treatment options for SSD include bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHAs), sound-field FM systems, and assistive listening devices.
Single-sided deafness is a condition that affects fewer than two percent of the population. It can cause difficulties in understanding speech, hearing conversations in noisy environments and determining loudness or source of sound.
Treatment options for SSD include hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices. With proper treatment, those with SSD can improve their quality of life.