What is Unilateral Hearing Loss?

man holding ear in pain

Unilateral hearing loss can be caused by infection or injury.

For most people, hearing loss occurs in both ears at roughly the same rate of loss over time. Most hearing loss is due to aging or occupation, and the loss is gradual. This type of hearing loss is called bilateral, as it affects the hearing in both ears.However, for some, hearing loss is restricted to one ear, in which case it is called unilateral hearing loss. The causes of unilateral hearing loss may also be due to aging or occupational hazards but are more likely to be the result of an infection or injury.

Unilateral hearing loss is only diagnosed when the hearing in the other ear is completely unaffected. If both ears have hearing loss, and one is just worse than the other, it is still bilateral hearing loss and the treatment will apply to both ears albeit in modified form for each.

For unilateral hearing loss, once the injury is treated and healed or the infection has cleared, a hearing aid may be needed to improve hearing in the affected ear. Since hearing aids can be sold singly, it isn't a problem to acquire one and have it professionally fitted and adjusted for best hearing.

In many cases, people with unilateral hearing loss can be fitted with a special hearing aid that takes the sound being heard properly by the unaffected ear and transferring it to the ear with hearing loss to restore "stereo sound."

A person with unilateral hearing loss should not depend on personal sound amplification devices as they simply make sound louder and can actually make unilateral hearing loss worse instead of better. 

While it may be tempting to simply deal with loss of hearing in one ear, quality of life can be affected. Treating unilateral hearing loss can help prevent additional hearing loss and allow regular interaction with others without constantly turning your head or straining to hear.

The causes of unilateral hearing loss may be due to aging or occupational hazards, but are more likely to be the result of an infection or injury. Find out what options can help restore hearing.