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Why Do I Only Have Hearing Loss in One Ear?

Unilateral hearing loss can also be referred to as single-sided deafness. Find out what happens when your hearing is imbalanced – when one ear hears better than the other.



Hearing loss in one ear what should you do? 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. Ana Anzola, Dr. Linda Himler, doctors of audiology with Hearing Doctors, the Washington DC area's highest-rated audiology practice with over 1500, five-star reviews. Ana, Linda great to see you both. Great to see you.


All right. So, today we're talking about unilateral hearing loss or UHL. What exactly is that? 


Most people will have symmetrical hearing loss meaning the hearing loss is the same in both ears. Unilateral hearing loss is when one hearing ears hearing is normal and the other ears hearing is a little bit different. It could be full deafness, it could be a partial hearing loss, or it could be something in between.


Is this a common, less common sort of thing? 


Much less common than you think. But it's very critical to get it evaluated. Um, it is one of the hardest ones to define because I think that that patient goes the longest because they're just relying with one ear and they can go the longest. So, it could be um something, something simple like uh something like an ent can actually do something for it. Or it could be something a lot more serious like a tumor something that can be removed or monitored.


Is it something that can be corrected in the audiologist's office? 


Often not. And we want that medical clearance because we want to make sure that this is, this is atypical so this is not the most normal thing we see but it has different treatment plans after we get that medical clearance.


So, let's talk about some of the symptoms I mean obviously in in the the bigger picture of things you said the symptom of you know, not as good in one ear but you're okay in the other, but are there other things, signs of of UHL that people could look out for? 


Some people will talk about oral fullness where their ear feels like it's in a cloud. Or they notice that when they drive they don't hear as well on one side versus the other. So, that they end up being the passenger they hear better but when they drive they don't hear the passenger as well. So, there's certain things that'll come up. Sometimes they'll be ringing just in that ear. So, there are other symptoms that may go along with that so it's important to ask the right questions when they come in.


I would imagine because we've often you know we've talked about the other effects of hearing loss on on a person. But balance?


Sure. And knowing which direction a noise is coming from could be critical. Sure, directionality, localization that can be compromised. Um, we often see patients who tell me that you know when I was laying on my one side and I couldn't hear the TV. It again, that's a sign that something's not normal and get it checked out.


Are there other things that that I mean could it be genetic disorders? I mean are there other  things that that might cause this? 


So. Yeah, I believe there are some genetic disorders often that they are genetic disorders they're often identified when they're young. Um, there are some that do develop as they get older. There's other type things that run in families like otosclerosis and that could also be identified as a unilateral hearing loss. 


Now you talked about somebody gets medically cleared. Once that has happened are there things that that you guys can do here in the office? 


Oh, for sure. You can either aid that one ear that's compromised or apply something that we call a CROS or a BICROS system so that's wearing two hearing aids. So putting amplification on the, on the bad ear and and having the other transmit the sound.


What about counseling for somebody that has this? I mean obviously, not a lot of people have it um it's it's it's not normal, it's not it's not the typical type of hearing loss that people might be accustomed to. What sort of counseling can you offer and what sort of realistic expectations can somebody have? 


With a CROS or a BICROS system their localization of sound will be

different than it would be if you have normal hearing or hearing, a hearing aid on that side because you aren't able to localize the sound because it's still all coming into one side. So, you still have to look for where sound is coming from. You also have to, you may not do as well in noisy places because you're not really aiding that ear so your reference points still aren't in line. It's still one year doing the doing the work. But the pluses of that are you can go to the movie theater and have somebody sit on that bad side. So, you have to get your brain around it so that it it understands that I’m hearing Mary here but she's actually over here. So, there's some of that kind of counseling that we do. And often your experience is when they come back in two weeks they go, you know I’m really not hearing that well in that ear and you literally have to re-explain you're not going to hear here you're going to hear everything here and then the brain just takes a little bit longer to get an idea of how it's going to function 


So, the bottom line is, as we've talked about with anybody, you should always be getting your ears checked. But if you have some sort of get in to see a doctor of audiology to get your ears checked because that's where it has to start. Yeah, absolutely. And there are other options besides the hearing aid. It could be a surgical solution as well. But again it's just the importance of getting it tested. Don't ignore signs like why can’t I hear on this side and why is one bright and the other one sort of muted. Um, that's, that's a sign to come in and see us. Okay. Ana, Linda, thank you both so much for your time.


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