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Hearing Loss in One Ear

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule Apr 14, 2019
Hearing loss in one ear or single sided deafness, is a hearing disorder in which a person is able to hear normally with one ear, but has an impaired hearing with the other.
Hearing loss in one ear, also called unilateral hearing is a type of hearing disorder, in which only one ear functions normally. This is a disorder which is often neglected, both by the person suffering as well as the society.
Although the problem with unilateral hearing may not be as severe as with profound hearing impairment or deafness, it can still affect the life of the person. Hearing loss in one ear can occur in both children and adults. Impairment of hearing in one ear in children often leads to problems in academic, emotional and social development of the child.


» When this disorder takes place in adults, the most important symptom is that the person is unable to follow a normal conversation with one ear, but has no problem with the other.
» The person inadvertently keeps turning his 'good ear' towards the source of sound. Moreover, these people have a problem with localizing sound and the hearing becomes worse in the presence of a background noise.
» A person with unilateral hearing loss is able to discriminate the speech normally, when the conditions are quiet, but has a problem in noisy conditions. The variations in the speech discrimination depend upon the degree of severity of unilateral hearing loss.
» A condition named tinnitus, in which there is a constant noise from the impaired ear is also present. This can be extremely frustrating for the person because while he has a problem hearing outside sounds, he has to endure a continuous noise from within ear.
The person should immediately consult an audiologist if he shows even the mildest signs of unilateral hearing loss.

Types and Causes

There is no single known cause for this condition. Some children are born with unilateral hearing while in some, it may result due to complications during pregnancy.
In the later life, unilateral hearing may occur due to meningitis, high fever, measles, mumps or some other disease. In some cases, it may be due to a heredity, if there has been a history of ear problems in the family. Severe ear infections, impacted earwax or trauma also contribute to hearing loss in one ear. 
Unilateral hearing is mostly characterized by sudden loss in hearing ability. For instance, a person may go to bed with normal hearing and wake up with complete loss of hearing in one or rarely in both ears. Depending upon the cause and defect location in ear, sudden loss of hearing in one ear can be classified in two types that are as follows:

Sudden Conductive Hearing Loss

This type of loss occurs due to impairment of middle ear. Infections are the most common causes of this type of hearing loss. As the fluid from the infection drains inside the Eustachian tubes, the components of middle ear cannot move freely and carry sound waves like they normally do.
This results in temporary hearing loss in one ear. The problem can be treated by draining the fluid out of Eustachian tubes. Once the infection subsides, your hearing may come back to normal.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

When the hearing loss is due to impairment of inner ear, it is termed as Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). The extent of damage to ear is more serious in SSHL than SCHL. Loud explosion, sudden differences in barometric pressure etc., are responsible for SSHL, amongst other causes.
People with SSHL may regain their hearing without treatment or sometimes with treatment. A small percentage of people may experience permanent loss. Tinnitus is often present with SSHL, which can worsen the condition for patients.


The audiologists often try to treat tinnitus first, as it makes the life miserable for the patient. Unfortunately, there is quite a difficulty in understanding and treating tinnitus. SCHL is fairly easier to diagnose and treat than SSHL. The doctor may prescribe medication or manually clear the infection by draining the fluid out of ear.
SSHL can be treated with the help of surgery if the bones are damaged due to explosion or other trauma. In cases of SSHL that cannot be diagnosed for underlying cause, the degree of restoration of hearing mainly depends upon degree of hearing loss. If you have profound loss, then you only have 25% chances of restoring your hearing irrespective of treatment.
If nothing works for your ear, your doctor may ask you to go for a hearing aid. However, people with profound hearing loss are likely to benefit less from hearing aids. The two main forms of hearing aids used in treating unilateral hearing loss are:
CROS Hearing Aid: This instrument captures the sound from the impaired hear and then transmits it to the normal ear.

Bone Anchored Hearing Aid: This instrument transfers the sound by the means of bone conduction and stimulates the cochlea of the normal ear, thereby increasing audibility.
Hearing loss in one ear can often be traumatic to the person, as well as those who live with him. The person has to face problems while using audio instruments such as stereo headphones, VOIP devices etc. Children with this disorder should be trained to rely more on visual assistance than on the auditory.
Disclaimer: This is intended for information purpose only. Do not use the information presented herein as a substitute for medical practitioner's advice.