What is Single-Sided Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is a pervasive medical condition that 1 in 8 people navigate in the U.S. Impacting over 40 million people, hearing loss has various causes and can be experienced differently. Impairment can be mild to severe and affect one ear more than the other. Single sided – also known as unilateral – hearing loss is impairment in one ear and severe forms can be referred to as single-sided deafness. This type of hearing loss (like all types of hearing loss) should be addressed and treated as soon as symptoms are identified! 

Understanding Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition among older adults. There are several factors that can contribute to its development including: 

    • Existing medical conditions: such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke increase the risk of hearing impairment. 
    • Exposure to loud noise: one time or consistent absorption of increased levels of noise can cause permanent damage. People are easily exposed to loud noise while listening to music, in the workplace, sports arenas, concerts etc. 
    • Aging: known as presbycusis, structural change that naturally happens over time can impact hearing

Other causes are head and/or neck injuries, viral or bacterial infections, and genetic history. These factors disrupt the ears and brain’s ability to process sound which involves: 

    • Outer Ear: the most visible part of the ear collects soundwaves from the environment which travels down the ear canal and lands on the eardrum. 
    • Middle Ear: the ossicles – three connected bones – help push the soundwaves further into the inner ear.
    • Inner Ear: the cochlea – filled with thousands of hair cells and fluid – translates soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to process. 

Damage to any of these components interrupts this process, making it difficult to hear and understand incoming sound information. Most commonly, the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged which prevents them from helping the brain translate soundwaves. Because these hair cells do not regenerate, the damage and resulting hearing loss is permanent. 

Single-Sided Hearing Loss

As previously described, both ears play an integral role in absorbing and processing sound. Hearing loss in one ear means that you have less capacity to identify and register sound. This causes: 

    • Reduced ability to locate sound: it becomes difficult to hear and know where sounds are coming from. The brain typically uses both ears to locate sound – the ear that absorbs the sound waves determines the direction of where the sound is originating from. So only being able to hear out of one ear affects the brain’s ability to easily locate the sound.  
    • Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise: noisier settings provides more sound for the brain to process which distracts from focusing on a conversation. Only having one ear to take in sound, including background noise, makes it even more difficult to filter through all of this sound. 
    • Struggling with volume: hearing through both ears also allows the brain to register the accurate volume of sound. Single sided hearing loss effects volume perception. 
    • Cognitive overload: because the brain has to do more work to process sound, this can overload cognitive function causing it to take longer to understand what you are hearing. This may make it challenging to focus on and complete daily tasks with ease. 

Single-sided hearing loss is treated the same way general hearing loss is treated and it is important to intervene as soon as you notice symptoms. 

Seeking Treatment 

Fortunately, there are several useful ways that hearing loss is treated. The first step in addressing your hearing health is scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by a member of our team, hearing tests involve a noninvasive (and painless) process that measures hearing ability in both ears. This identifies any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you may be experiencing. 

The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. For single sided hearing loss and depending on the degree, there are a few options: 

    • Moderate hearing loss may simply require a typical hearing aid worn on the affected ear
    • CROS (contralateral) hearing aids: designed for people with severe hearing loss in one ear and includes a transmitter on the affected side and a receiver on the other ear. This system works to detect sound through the affected ear and route it to the functional ear. 
    • BiCROS hearing aids: this type of hearing aid works in the same way but is for people with moderate hearing loss in one ear. 

If you believe you are experiencing a hearing loss, contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Getting to Know Your Hearing Aids

If you have recently purchased new hearing aids, congratulations on taking such an important step to improve your health! Hearing aids are an important investment that impacts how you navigate your daily life. 

Similar to most electronics today, hearing aids have experienced significant innovation over the years. Smaller than ever, these devices have such a range of options that have various features and technologies designed to easily integrate with your life. Hearing aids have more capacity, helping to maximize your hearing in different environments and while engaging in an array of activities. It is important to take the time to get familiar with your hearing aids – all components and settings so you can get the best use out of them. 

Let’s explore the most common types of hearing aids, their parts, and the functions you can expect!

 

Understanding How Hearing Aids Work

Hearing aids consist of different components that work together to absorb and process sound. All hearing aids have four basic parts:  

  • Microphone: collects all of the sound in the environment you are in and converts those soundwaves into electrical signals. 
  • Amplifier: strengthens (amplifies) those signals and in hearing aids that are more advanced, the amplifier can manipulate these signals to a person’s hearing preferences. 
  • Receiver: also referred to as the speaker, converts the electrical signals back into sound and sends it to the inner ear. 

The fourth component is the power supply (i.e. rechargeable batteries). All hearing aid types and sizes are composed of these basic mechanics. 

 

Hearing Aid Types 

There are numerous brands, styles, and models of hearing aids and it can be difficult to sift through and understand. The key thing to know here is that there are two major types of hearing aids: 

  • In the Ear (ITE): worn in the ear and usually involves taking a custom mold of your ear so that the device fits. 
  • Behind the Ear (BTE): worn behind or on top of the outer ear. These devices are connected (through a small, clear tube) to an ear piece that sits in the ear canal. 

These types of hearing aids also have common styles 

  • ITE
  • Invisible in the canal (IIC) & Completely in the canal (CIC) – are the smallest and least visible hearing aids that are available. They are made using an earmold to fit perfectly in the ear canal. IIC hearing aids are made to be further in the ear than CIC types.  
  • In the ear canal (ITC): these types of hearing aids are placed in the bowl of the lower portion of the outer ear. This means that they are larger and also more visible than other types of hearing aids. 
  • BTE
  • Receiver in the ear (RITE): this style involves the speaker sitting in the ear canal. A wire connects the speaker to the microphone and processor which rest behind the ear. 

There are types of hearing aids that may be better suited for your individual hearing needs. Some of these styles work better for people experiencing specific types of hearing loss – high vs. low frequency hearing loss for example. Our team is equipped with the knowledge to discuss which types of hearing aids would better meet your hearing needs. 

 

Digital Hearing Aids

Innovations in digital processing drastically changed the hearing aid industry. Digital hearing aids have the capacity to manipulate the sound you absorb and make changes that are more aligned with your specific hearing needs. There are settings that can be programmed which tune the incoming sound to best suit your hearing. So, if you struggle with specific sounds and/or frequencies, your hearing aids can be adjusted to account for it. Other benefits include: 

  • Reducing background noise and feedback, which sharpens sound quality 
  • Analyze your environment and switch to a different setting that is more optimal 
  • Enhanced voice recognition so your voice sounds more natural and less distorted 

Additionally, digital hearing aids can have features like wireless connectivity which uses Bluetooth technology. This allows your hearing aids to wirelessly connect with other electronic devices (smartphone, speaker, laptop etc.) and stream the audio directly to your device; enhancing the quality of sound.  

Whether you are in the market for new hearing aids or if you need assistance with your current pair, we are here to help! Contact us today.

Hearing Aid Compatible Assistive Listening Devices

The innovation of hearing aid technology in recent years has significantly enhanced user experience. There is such a wide range of features and options that allow hearing aids to easily integrate into your daily life and maximize your hearing in all of the environments you navigate. 

In addition to hearing aids, there are numerous types of assistive listening devices that support hearing. Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are devices that are also designed to help hearing in specific settings. There are ALDs that are compatible with hearing aids which strengthen sound quality, making it easier to hear in more challenging contexts. ALDs can help you hear more effectively in public venues, while watching television, and on the phone. 

With all of the options available today, it can be overwhelming to identify what could work best for you. To better understand the terrain of ALDs, they can be divided into the following categories:  

Wireless Technology 

Using Bluetooth technology, hearing aids can wirelessly connect to other electronic devices such as smartphone, speaker, laptop etc. Connecting wirelessly allows the audio to be streamed directly into your hearing aids. This sharpens sound quality and improves listening experiences while watching television, listening to a podcast, having a conversation on your phone etc. This is a really useful way to integrate your devices and easily shift between them. This option is incredibly beneficial because it works for multiple devices. Wireless technology is convenient and allows people with hearing loss to hear much more clearly. 

 

Hearing Loops

Also referred to audio induction loops is hearing aid technology that amplifies sound in public settings. Hearing loops are specifically useful for navigating public venues (conferences, talks, readings, meetings etc.), airports, stadiums, theaters, classrooms, check out counters etc. A small telecoil is embedded in hearing aid devices that pick-up signals from the audio in a public space. It is then converted into a sound that is set to the user’s specific preferences.  Hearing loops are easy to use – you simply turn the Telecoil option on (on your hearing device) and can be used in a plethora of settings. They provide greater accessibility for people with hearing loss in environments that may be more challenging to hear in. 

 

Amplified Telephones

This is useful if you use a landline. Amplified telephones are designed for people with hearing loss and allow you to increase the volume to meet your hearing needs. They reduce feedback and other noises that make it challenging to hear, especially with hearing aids. Amplified phones work in the same way that hearing loops work. The telecoil option on your hearing aids picks up sound from the phone and converts it to meet your specific hearing needs.

 

FM Systems

Use radio waves to send amplified sounds to hearing aids. FM systems involve a microphone which emits soundwaves and a receiver. The receiver can be built-in to hearing aids or be separate (headphones or neck loop). A person speaks into a microphone and the listener’s receiver picks-up the audio through radio signals. You may already be familiar with this technology if you have used headsets in a guided tour!

 

Personal Amplifiers 

This option is better in smaller settings and may not be necessary if you use previously mentioned devices. Personal amplifiers are small (hand held) devices that have a microphone which amplifies the sound you are trying to hear and reduces background noise. The sound is absorbed by a receiver that the listener is wearing (hearing aids, headphones, earbuds). 

In addition to these types of ALDs, there is an array of technologies that assist with hearing. ALDs encompass any type of device and/or technology that supports hearing. Additional ALDs that could be useful to you are: 

  • Captioning services 
  • Voice recognition software
  • Alerting and/or notification systems 

If you are interested in assistive listening devices, we recommend that you consult with our team of hearing healthcare specialists who can guide you through your options. It is important to identify your hearing needs and discuss what could work best for you and your lifestyle! ALDs are designed to support and maximize your hearing and ability to navigate daily life with ease!