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Solutions for Unilateral Hearing Loss

When hearing loss affects each ear differently, regular amplification devices often can’t provide an adequate solution, explore the benefits of CROS technology.



Solutions for unilateral hearing loss. That's our topic today on Ask the Hearing Doctors.


Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy and this is Ask the Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined today by Dr. Wendy Thorne. Doctor of Audiology with Hearing Doctors, the Washington, D.C. area's highest rated audiology practice with over 1500, 5-star reviews. Wendy, great to see you as always.


You too.


So what exactly is unilateral hearing loss?


So unilateral means one sided. So that's when you have hearing loss in just one ear.


All right. Now, how does it affect you? What happens when somebody has unilateral hearing loss?


So a lot of times they'll have the same sort of situations or difficulties that someone with hearing loss in both ears is going to have. They'll have trouble understanding speech or conversation easily. Difficulty in background noise. But probably the biggest thing that sets them different is they have a lot of trouble localizing where sound is because they have one ear that's doing well and one ear that's not doing well. To be able to localize where sound is coming from, the brain needs input from both sides. And if one side is kind of falling behind, it makes it very hard to tell where something's coming from.


And potentially dangerous.


Exactly. Yeah. You know, if you're out on a walk and you don't know if someone's coming up behind you or you hear a car horn honk, you don't know which way it can come from. So it can be dangerous.


What are the causes of unilateral hearing loss?


So a lot of times it can be just that's how the ear happens. Or it can be an infection that's really damaged the ear. Probably some of the more serious ones is you can have different conditions Meniere's Disease that can affect one ear. You can also have a tumor or a growth within that ear as well that can damage the hearing.


And I would imagine seeking treatment because since you don't know what it is, is really imperative to go see an audiologist or your ENT or whoever it is?


Exactly. Yeah. Any time there is a unilateral hearing loss, that does kind of raise some red flags because we want to make sure it's not something serious like a growth or some sort of physical damage in the ear that could be easily treated with seeing an ENT early on.


Okay. Now, what are some solutions for unilateral hearing loss.


The best solution for someone with hearing loss and just one side, it's called a CROS device. So what that does is they are hearing aids. They look very typical of standard hearing aids. But the side, the device on the side, that has no hearing loss. What it does is it picks up the sound and wirelessly sends it to their better ear. So they hear everything but just in one side. But someone could whisper in their bad ear and they can still hear it on the other side.


So what are some solutions for somebody that has unilateral hearing loss?


The best type of device for that, it's called a CROS or a BICROS device. How those work are, they are typical looking hearing aids. So you would have a device on each ear with a cross device that is someone that has poor hearing on one side and their other side is normal. So the device on their poor side takes all the sound, sends it into their good ear, and they hear everything from that device.


A BICROS works very similar, but on their better ear they do have some hearing loss. So that side gets the sound from the poor side. But then also adjusts for the hearing loss in that ear.


Do you feel and we've talked about how a hearing loss affects balance, do you feel imbalanced when all of the signals on one side?


Absolutely. Yeah. So especially if you have hearing loss in one ear, especially without any treatment on there, it can cause a sense of imbalance because really everything's kind of on one side and it can throw off your sense of balance.


And then we've talked about localizing hearing and that kind of thing. With the CROS technology. Does that correct all that? I mean, do you are you able to localize better than some?


Yeah. So it's it's a little bit better because you are getting a sense of sounds all around you. But then again, it is just in one side. We do talk about different coping mechanisms when we see a patient that is getting a CROS or BICROS. Different things that they can do. So if someone's trying to talk to you, if they can get your attention first. If you're in a noisy restaurant, maybe sit to face the people that you want to hear more and just have better awareness of things around you.


Other mechanisms to sort of help it along.




Yeah. Now, are the CROS and BICROS systems are they available in rechargeable?


They are. Yeah, you are. Yeah. That is something fairly new where they now have rechargeable systems now.


Are they are they available in the custom, in-the-ear and behind-the-ear styles?


Yes. So behind-the-ear tends to be more popular. There's different options, but there are options for in-the-ear ones as well.


And then I think something that's very important to people. Can I stream with my CROS hearing aids.


Yes. You can stream into your better ear. Yes. Yeah.


It's great information Wendy, appreciate your time with us today.


Thank you.


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