What is Unilateral Hearing Loss (Single-Sided Deafness)?

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UHL (Unilateral Hearing Loss) is when a person has impaired hearing in one ear. When it worsens to the point that the ear loses complete hearing function/ability, it is called SSD (Single-Sided Deafness).

1 in 1000 children are born with UHL, an estimated 7% of the global adult population suffers from UHL.

How does UHL affect me?

Danger when commuting
Localisation requires hearing on both ears. For a example, if a person is crossing the road and a car is driving in quickly from the person’s left, the car sounds will be louder and heard earlier on the person’s left ear than the right ear. This loudness and time difference helps the person identify from which direction the car sound is coming from and the person can easily avoid the oncoming car. A person with UHL is unable to tell which direction a sound is coming from. This can make crossing the street and walking on a busy pathway dangerous.

Difficulty hearing in noisy situations
A person needs both ears to pick up speech cues in noisy situations. It is harder for a person with UHL to understand speech in noisy situations. Research has shown that children with UHL are 10 times more likely to fail a grade or require special assistance with learning in school.

Poor judgement of sound loudness
A person with hearing on both ears will perceive the same volume of sound much louder than a person with UHL. This is because the brain was designed to utilise information from both ears to process sound. Hence a person with UHL may require a louder volume (from television, radio and music devices) to feel that a sound is audible.

What should I do if I have UHL?

If your UHL occured suddenly, schedule an appointment with your nearest Ear Nose Throat doctor right away. If you are unable to book an appointment, go straight to your nearest A&E. Any hearing loss occurs suddenly has to be examined and treated right away for the best results. If you have been diagnosed with untreatable UHL, talk to your audioloist on available management strategies.

Devices to manage UHL

1.Contralateral routing of signal (CROS) 

CROS requires the user to wear a 2 devices, a hearing aid on the good ear and a CROS device on the deaf ear. The CROS device functions like a radio transmitter and picks up all sounds coming in from the deaf side and sends it to the hearing aid on the good ear. CROS can help improve speech understanding in noisy environments.

Popular CROS devices in Singapore are Phonak Audeo Paradise CROS-Rechargeable, Phonak Virto Belong CROS-312, Signia CROS Pure Charge&Go X and Signia CROS X.

2.Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA) 

BAHA functions in a similar way to CROS devices by picking up sounds by the deaf side and sending it to the better ear. However it does so by vibrating the sounds through bone conduction. BAHA is usually attached to the head via wear a headband, sports band or a surgical implant.

Popular BAHA devices in Singapore are Cochlear BAHA and Oticon Ponto.

3.Cochlear Implant (CI)

A cochlear implant provides hearing to the deaf ear by surgically implanting a thin device in the cochlea. This device, when used with an external sound processor, converts sounds to electrical impulses and stimulates the hearing nerve directly.

A cochlear implant improves speech understanding and restore sound localisation. It is commonly prescribed when a person’s hearing loss is too severe to benefit from hearing aids.

Popular CI brands in Singapore are Cochlear, Advanced Bionics and Med-el.

Looking for more information on UHL?

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