What is Unilateral Hearing Loss?
The word “Unilateral” stands for one or one-sided, so Unilateral Hearing Loss means hearing loss that occurs to only one side of the ears.
What are some of the potential causes of unilateral hearing loss?
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Physical damage to the ear
- Head trauma
- Genetic factors or inherited disorders
- Car Accident
- Noise exposure or explosion that dominantly happened to one side
- Meniere’s disease
- Acoustic neuroma
Signs of potential unilateral hearing loss
- Favors one ear over another. Such as always leaning the good ear towards the speaker when others are talking to you, or you like to use a specific ear when talking on the telephone because you can hear better from that ear.
- Hard time localizing sounds
- You plug up your ears with your fingers one ear at a time, or when you are lying on one ear at a time, you notice that you can hear better out of one ear than another.
- You are experiencing dizziness or off-balance sensations.
- If unilateral hearing loss occurs in children, it will affect their academic performance and ability to acquire speech and language.
Treatments for unilateral hearing loss
Whenever you are experiencing a unilateral hearing loss, the very first step that you should take is to seek medical attention as soon as possible with an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist. This is especially important if you are experiencing sudden unilateral hearing loss.
Think about it, you go everywhere with both of your ears, and both ears are experiencing similar amounts of sounds and noises, so theoretically speaking, they should be the same if not very similar to each other.
However, if suddenly one of the ears becomes worse compared to the other, that should be a huge red flag to you that you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. In addition, with exceptional circumstances such as sudden unilateral hearing loss, the time window to receive treatments for one to perceive the maximum benefits is very limited.
On average, the best treatment time window is within 5 – 7 days of the onset of the unilateral hearing loss. Therefore, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is very time-sensitive and essential!
Side note: Don’t be surprised that your ENT specialist might ask you to have a pre-treatment hearing test and a post-treatment hearing test done to compare and determine treatment efficiency. Multiple (more than 2) hearing testing might be warranted if needed.
What happens after receiving medical treatments and there is still hearing loss?
The hearing loss persists if you have received medical treatments from an ENT specialist for unilateral hearing loss. The type of hearing loss you have been diagnosed with is permanent or considered Sensorineural hearing loss. Your next treatment option would be following up with an audiologist to obtain hearing aid(s), which is also an essential step because we ultimately listen with our brains, not our ears.
Our ears are a conducting system to send sounds to the brain. With hearing loss, there is less sound sent up to the brain, and the human brain is like a piece of muscle. The key “nutrient” sounds to keep the brain’s listening part active. With long-term untreated hearing loss, the hearing part of the brain is not receiving the “nutrient” that it needs, and it can start to atrophy and spread to other parts of the brain. Ultimately it can lead to other health-related issues, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Long-term care plan for unilateral hearing loss
Since you only have one good ear, taking care of your hearing and ears is very important! Wear hearing protection whenever you are exposed to loud noises. Such as target shooting, hunting, woodworking, and car racing. Daily life chores such as lawn mowing, using a leaf blower, snow blower, and some of vacuum cleaners can also increase your risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry, and a lot of times, once your hearing is gone, it is gone. Additionally, annual hearing re-evaluation is strongly recommended to monitor hearing sensitivity; however, if at any time that you suspect a change happens to your hearing, repeat a hearing test as soon as possible.
Side Note: A good general rule of thumb, if at any time that you are experiencing a change to one side of your body but not the other, primarily due to unknown reasons, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is strongly recommended!