What Causes Single-Sided Hearing Problems?

When someone has hearing loss in only one ear, they have SSD (single-sided deafness) or UHL (unilateral hearing loss). The hearing loss itself can range from mild to profound. SSD and UHL can be congenital or progressive. A variety of different symptoms can be associated with the syndrome. The most commonly experienced issues include tinnitus, otalgia and vertigo. If otitis media with effusion is present, it is common for UHL to be caused.

SSD causes a lot of different things. We often see that people with SSD struggle to follow a group conversation, particularly if they find themselves in a reverberant environment. Loud noises are also highly problematic. It is also common for people who suffer from it to feel unsafe and become isolated and lose self-confidence. It is common for people with congenital SSD to have psychosocial and educational problems. Scientists have not yet spent much time looking into the prevalence of SSD. Their are of focus is more strongly on bilateral hearing loss. Some preliminary studies have taken place and these suggest that some 10% of the population actually has UHL. It is known, however, that it is more common to have conductive hearing loss rather than sensorineural hearing loss.

Additionally, specialists agree that very often, SSD develops into a bilateral condition. Six different classifications are possible, being acquired or congenital, sensorineural or conductive and non-genetic or genetic. Very often, it isn’t known what the aetiology of childhood SSD is. In the case of adults, however, the cases are generally clearer. If UHL has to be diagnosed, then the person first has to go through a clinical examination and their medical history has to be reviewed as well. Generally, otoscopy is able to tell what the cause is. Very often, tuning forks can be used to determine whether the UHL is conductive or sensorineural. This is because this test can determine pure tone hearing thresholds. In doing so, it will become clear whether the hearing loss is bilateral or unilateral in nature. If there is a lot of difference between the two, then masking noises must be employed. Doing this will stop the good ear from transferring sounds to the bad ear. Those people who suspect they have SSD should seek professional help as soon as possible to determine what is going on and what can be done about it. It is a shame that the cause can often not be determined, but what really matters is that people are able to enjoy a greater quality of life through treatment and thereby avoid social isolation and unhappiness.

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