Starkey Blog

What is single-sided deafness?

Do you have a “better ear?” Is it easier to follow conversations when someone is sitting close to your “better ear?” Many of us have a preference for which ear we use on the telephone. Losing hearing in one ear is referred to as unilateral hearing loss. Profound unilateral hearing loss — hearing loss greater than 91dB — is referred to as single-sided deafness. Hearing professionals often abbreviate single-sided deafness to SSD. 

SSD refers to a condition in which hearing has been lost in one ear while the hearing in the other ear is normal or nearly normal. Hearing loss can be present in both ears, but with single-sided deafness, one ear has no usable hearing and cannot benefit from amplification because either the hearing or the ability to understand speech in that ear is too poor to be aided.

There is no cure for SSD, but there are effective non-surgical and surgical treatment options available.

Why is hearing with two ears important?

Relying on one ear to hear is challenging. Difficult listening environments are more tiring for someone with single-sided deafness. Our auditory system is designed to receive input from both ears. Hearing well with two ears helps us locate where sounds are coming from and improves overall loudness.

Individuals with single-sided deafness may do fine in quiet, one-on-one conversations, but following conversations in noisy environments will be difficult. Separating speech from background noise is hard to do when you’re relying on one ear to hear. Determining where sounds are coming from is also difficult. Listening with one ear requires much more effort than listening with two.

Do you suffer from single-sided deafness?

What causes single-sided deafness?

Trauma, acoustic neuroma, viral and bacterial infections, and circulatory disorders are known causes of single-sided deafness. When the cause cannot be explained, SSD is described as sudden idiopathic hearing loss. 

Non-surgical treatment options for single-sided deafness

CROS and BiCROS hearing aids are the most common non-surgical treatment options for SSD. Both options are designed to direct important environmental and speech sounds from the ear with the poorer hearing to the ear with better hearing, restoring the sensation of hearing sounds bilaterally.

Both treatment options improve sound awareness, speech understanding, and can reduce listening effort by restoring the sensation of hearing sounds with both ears. CROS and BiCROS hearing aids have the flexibility to be reprogrammed to accommodate changes in hearing while providing customizable tinnitus relief.

CROS and BiCROS hearing solutions for single-sided deafness or unilateral hearing loss.

Starkey offers cutting edge CROS and BiCROS hearing aids

In both a CROS (Contralateral Routing of Signal) and BiCROS (Bilateral Contralateral Routing of Signal) system, the user wears a device in both ears; a microphone worn in the ear with the poorer hearing wirelessly transmits sound to a receiver worn in the ear with better hearing. The two work together to restore the sensation of bilateral hearing while improving sound localization and overall loudness. 

Both systems offer wireless connectivity for ear-to-ear streaming phone conversations, as well as television, music and media. While the two systems operate similarly, each is used to treat a different degree of hearing loss in the better hearing ear.

Hearing professionals often choose the BiCROS over the CROS system when significant hearing loss is present in the “better” hearing ear, requiring amplification to correct. When little or no amplification is needed in the “better” hearing ear, CROS systems are recommended.

Surgical treatment options for single-sided deafness

Surgical treatment options are also available and include bone-anchored implants. Bone-anchored implants route sound to the better ear using bone conduction. A titanium screw is surgically anchored to the skull behind the ear with the poorer hearing, then a sound processor is attached externally to transmit sound through the skull to the cochlea of that ear.

We can help

Our auditory systems are designed to receive input from both ears. Losing hearing in one ear can cause significant auditory hardship. Starkey makes popular CROS and BiCROS systems designed to improve sound awareness, speech understanding, and reduce listening effort for people with single-sided deafness.

To try one for yourself, schedule a consultation with a hearing professional today. You can do that by calling 1-888-908-1845, or by clicking here.

By: Beth McCormick, Au.D.

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