If you’ve ever suffered from a water-clogged ear after a swim, you know what it feels like to have a unilateral hearing loss (UHL). Unilateral hearing loss refers to hearing loss that affects only one ear.
Sufferers of UHL experience a mild or moderate hearing loss; they still retain some hearing ability, however, limited.
If you suffer from UHL, you’re not alone – it’s estimated that 19% of adults in Canada live with some form of hearing loss, and approximately 1 in 1,000 children are born with limited hearing ability in one ear.
As with all diagnoses, the more you understand your condition, the easier it is to manage. This article will explore unilateral hearing loss, including its symptoms, causes and treatment options.
What Does Unilateral Hearing Loss Feel Like?
Simply put, unilateral hearing loss is partial hearing loss in one ear.
Your ear may feel clogged or muffled.
Those living with a unilateral hearing loss sometimes describe a “fullness” sensation as if the ear is full of fluid. You may be able to hear sounds and voices but cannot distinguish exact words or make out the features of a particular sound.
It’s important to understand the distinction between unilateral hearing loss and single-sided deafness (SSD). SSD describes those with no hearing ability in one ear.
If you’re unsure of the severity of your condition, our expert audiologists at Arnold Hearing Centres can determine whether you suffer from UHL or SSD.
Symptoms of Unilateral Hearing Loss
Unilateral hearing loss presents in several ways. Symptoms may include:
- Ringing in one ear (tinnitus)
- Clogged or muffled feeling in one ear
- Difficulty identifying where sounds are coming from (localization)
- Difficulty understanding conversations, especially in noisy environments
- Favouring one ear over the other
- Frequently turning up the volume when listening to the radio or watching television
- Difficulty gauging the volume of one’s own voice
Types of Unilateral Hearing Loss
There are two main types of unilateral hearing loss: conductive or sensorineural.
Conductive unilateral hearing loss refers to a problem in the middle or outer ear which prevents sound from reaching the inner ear.
Sensorineural unilateral hearing loss occurs when an abnormality affects the inner ear. Your inner ear is a complex system of nerves communicating directly with your brain’s auditory cortex. An abnormality in this region prevents your brain from properly processing sound.
Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss
Unilateral hearing loss can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- An abnormality in the ear, such as cholesteatoma
- Injury to the eardrum or ear canal
- History of ear infections
- Illnesses, such as meningitis
- Head injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Frequent exposure to loud noise
- Birth defects or premature birth
Treating and Managing Unilateral Hearing Loss
With proper care, unilateral hearing loss can be effectively managed and treated. There are several surgical and non-surgical treatments available for children and adults.
- Steroid medications or steroid injections
- Traditional hearing aids
- CROS (contralateral routing of sound) hearing aids
- Remote microphones
- Cochlear implants
- Auditory brainstem implants
- Bone-anchored hearing aids
- Speech and language therapy
When to Consult an Audiologist
If you are experiencing symptoms of unilateral hearing loss, it’s crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible – particularly if the hearing loss occurs suddenly.
Our audiologists will perform a hearing test to determine the severity of your hearing loss.
We’ll diagnose the root cause of your hearing loss and help you devise a treatment plan. If you’re a local resident in Kitchener, Guelph, Simcoe or Waterloo experiencing a hearing loss in one ear, then schedule an appointment with Arnold Hearing Centres today.
Arnold Hearing Centres is one of Canada’s most trusted names in audiology. For more than 70 years, our team of hearing care experts has helped local families overcome the unique challenges posed by hearing loss. We proudly serve our Ontario neighbours in Guelph, Simcoe, Kitchener and Waterloo.