Many people who say that they have one “good” ear often actually have hearing loss in both ears. It may seem that the patient is a little hard of hearing in just one ear and that the good ear is normal. But more often than not, hearing loss affects both ears and the good ear may not actually be at a healthy level.
What does a one-sided hearing loss mean?
Unilateral or one-sided hearing loss is defined as mild to profound loss of hearing in one ear. This type of hearing loss may be more common than generally believed. Three out of 1,000 school children are estimated to suffer from unilateral hearing loss (UHL). Children and adults who suffer from hearing loss in one ear face a lot of unique challenges that make daily life difficult.
Patients have trouble localizing sound
Our dual-eared auditory system is perfectly designed to capture cues that allow us to pinpoint the origin of a particular sound. If you have UHL, you may have trouble localizing sound, or figuring out where the sound is coming from. This problem makes it difficult to understand who is speaking to you, especially in a crowd. You’ll find it hard to follow a conversation, and distinguish between speech and background noises. You may end up focusing so much on catching sounds that it becomes impossible to actively participate in the discussion. UHL can lead to low self-esteem, misunderstandings, and feelings of exclusion.
Having just one good ear may also have safety implications, especially on the road. You may have trouble judging where a vehicle is coming from or may end up underestimating its nearness. As a pedestrian crossing the road or stepping into traffic, this can have dangerous outcomes. The loss of spatial hearing is a common motivating factor that encourages a patient to seek treatment for hearing loss, even when they have relatively normal hearing in one ear.
One good ear isn’t enough
While you may still have the use of one “good” ear, remember that hearing loss typically affects both ears. Relying on just one ear can cause fatigue and confusion, especially in complex listening environments. Some UHL cases may even a represent a bilateral condition that has a unilateral onset.
Treatment for hearing loss in one ear
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that loss of hearing in one ear is not serious, or that you have no choice but to live with it. Even if the problem is restricted to one ear, it can still significantly reduce the quality of your life. If you notice reduced hearing in one ear, don’t ignore it just because you are able to manage well with the other ear.
Patients with one-sided hearing loss require careful diagnosis and support. The online Beltone hearing test is a good starting point to identify a potential hearing problem. Follow it up with a more in-depth hearing test by a Beltone hearing care professional. The earlier you diagnose the condition, the better the chances of successful treatment.