What’s it like when half of the world goes silent?
For most of us, we’ll never know. For those living with single-sided deafness (SSD), however, it’s a daily occurrence … one that brings with it a plethora of emotions and challenges. In just a minute, we’ll take a look at the story of Carly, a young woman who has been living with SSD for several years. Before we do that, however, let’s learn a little more about this hearing disorder.
What is single-sided deafness?
Sometimes referred to as unilateral hearing loss, single-sided deafness is pretty much just as it sounds – severe or profound hearing loss in one ear, and normal or close to normal hearing in the other. When our ears are working properly, we are able to hear sounds from multiple directions, and we can determine exactly which direction the sound is coming from. When the hearing in one ear is profoundly affected, however, this becomes extremely challenging.
Causes of one-sided deafness
Sometimes, unilateral hearing loss can present itself with no apparent cause, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Many cases, however, can be traced back to these common causes:
- Genetic origins – there are many types of genetic hearing loss that can be inherited.
- Head trauma or injury
- Viral or bacterial infection
- Acoustic neuroma – a slow growing, noncancerous tumor that comes from the cells of the vestibular nerve.
Living with single-sided deafness: Carly’s story
Now … back to Carly. Life with SSD started with sudden hearing loss in one ear, with no apparent cause. There was no infection, and she didn’t feel sick in any other way. Now, she has come to terms with the fact that this is her new normal, the way she must live the rest of her life. As such, she is learning to live with the challenges that single-sided deafness brings:
- Difficulty localizing sound – With only one “good ear”, it’s often difficult for Carly to know which direction a sound is coming from. As you can imagine, this is very frustrating, but it is also a safety concern. Imagine not being able to hear if a car is coming when you go to cross the road, know where your phone is when it’s ringing, or be able to determine which direction a siren is approaching from.
- Challenging conversations – Being unable to hear out of one ear means that Carly must constantly put herself in the best physical position to be able to take part in conversations. In areas like a restaurant, where there is a lot of competing background noise, she has to be especially mindful and try to manage her environment as much as possible. This means sitting in a corner, or against the wall, with her good ear toward her dining companions.
- Relationships – Carly has learned the importance of a support system – family and friends who understand her condition and are willing and able to make small accommodations to make her life easier. For example, her boyfriend walks on her “good side”, making it much easier for them to converse. Not everyone with SSD has such a supportive environment, however, and living with one-sided hearing loss can cause feelings of frustration, loneliness, and depression.
Treatment options for unilateral hearing loss
As with any hearing impairment, treatment for single-sided hearing loss starts with an accurate diagnosis. Working together with a hearing professional, appropriate treatment options can then be determined. Depending on the degree of loss, possible treatments include, but are not limited to:
- Hearing implants
- Bone conduction devices
- Cochlear implants
- Hearing aids
- Amplification devices
If you, or a loved one, have any hearing-related concerns, schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists as soon as possible. The earlier hearing changes are detected and diagnosed, the better the chance that we can provide effective treatment.
Read more of Carly’s story here.