One form of deafness that most people do not know about is single-sided deafness. Just as it sounds, this term indicates a person has experienced deafness on one side and not the other. This form of deafness is often overlooked but is not as uncommon as you might think. Three out of every 100 students entering school deals with some or all hearing loss on one side. This is also known as being monaural. (Someone who can hear from both ears is binaural.)
Daily Living with SSD
If someone has one good working ear, they don’t have problems, right?
Being deaf in one ear does affect the daily life. Binaural people can locate where a noise or sound is coming from based on the differences in timing and intensity in the sound signals. With that information they can differentiate between noise signals. That double input allows them to separate background noise from conversation. For a monaural person, the signal comes in only one input. They have no natural way of differentiating between noises. Having a conversation in a noisy room is very difficult.
Because the person dealing with SSD cannot find a noise’s direction easily, that person often goes in circles to locate that sound. Other problems they encounter is hearing something coming directly towards them on the side they have no hearing. The sound has to travel around the head to the other ear for the person to hear it. The head offers a shadow that makes that sound even more muffled. Even worse, when sound bounces off different surfaces the signal comes in all jumbled.
What Causes SSD and Who Gets It?
SSD happens due to a number of medical conditions. A short list includes:
- Physical damage to the ear structure due to injury
- Pressure on the nerve going from the ear to the brain
- Inner ear infections
- Damage caused by diseases like mumps or influenza
- Tumors in the brain or ear
- Head injury
Those dealing with the condition are found in all ages, genders, and socioeconomic statuses.
For permanent injury or damage, there is no cure at this time. However, there are treatments available that will make life easier on the person dealing with SSD.
Special hearing aids can make it possible for a monaural person to hear what is on the non-hearing side better. These aids transfer sounds from the non-hearing ear to the hearing one. The most common form of this aid is the CROS or contralateral routing of signal hearing aid:
- Conventional CROS – This is the simplest setup. The person wears a microphone on the non-hearing side that transmits noise to a speaker worn on the hearing side.
- CIC Transcranial CROS – This CROS aid implants a hearing device deep in the non-hearing ear. That device picks up the sound coming in and transmits it to the other ear through the bones of the skull.
- BAHA Transcranial CROS – This option involves an implant on the non-hearing side that transmits sound through bone to the hearing side.
You can get help if you are dealing with SSD. An audiologist can test you and recommend a treatment option. There is no need for going untreated.
Tom Regev is a professional writer for the Total Hearing Care Watchung NJ branch.