CLARITY HEARING SOLUTIONS
Several years ago little could be done for single-sided deafness but that’s no longer the case…
I often come across people who have totally lost the hearing in one ear but still have normal hearing in the other ear. This is called single-sided deafness or SSD. Many have been told that there is nothing that can be done and to just live with it and learn to adapt. What many people don’t realise, however, is that it is extremely debilitating to lose the hearing in just the one ear. In a way, it’s worse than losing hearing in both ears.
First of all you lose all sense of determining which way a sound is coming from. We rely on volume differences between our ears to localise sound (i.e. a sound coming from the left side is louder in the left ear than the right so we know to look that way). Without the second ear we have no idea which direction sounds come from.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation in background noise as you require two ears to function when competing sounds are present.
Although several years ago there was little that could be done, we now have a lot more options to assist in alleviating these difficulties. Firstly some SSD patients may well be suitable for a cochlear implant, in which case we can restore the hearing that was lost.
In terms of outcomes restoring hearing should provide the most benefit as we are providing balance to the hearing once again. However, until recently, this option was discouraged as it was thought that cochlear implant technology could not reproduce normal hearing accurately enough for the better ear to ever adjust to the sound difference. Thankfully recent advances in implant technology mean that processors are now able to closer match normal hearing.
But probably the biggest factor is that our understanding of the plasticity (adaptiveness) of the brain has now changed and we realise the brain can quickly adapt to changes no matter what age this occurs.
The success rate for implanting single-sided deafness is now very high. In fact, all of our SSD patients have had very successful outcomes.
Besides cochlear implants there are other alternative devices that can assist, in particular a hearing device called a Bluetooth CROS device. This works by wearing a discreet hearing aid in each ear. The aid in the dead ear, called a transmitter, picks up all of the sounds from the poor side and transfers by a Bluetooth signal to the hearing aid in the good ear, the receiver. Because these devices do not block up the ear, the hearing in the good ear is still being used and it is then supplemented with the hearing aid receiving the information from the dead side.
The other advantage of the Bluetooth CROS device is that, because the hearing aid in the better ear is Bluetooth-compatible, you are able to pair it into other devices such as the TV. This will allow the wearer to hear the TV clearly at a level comfortable to them without affecting the volume for others.
Another helpful Bluetooth device that can be paired into the hearing aids are Bluetooth lapel microphones. These devices are remote microphones worn in noisy environments or around the house. They pick up the voice of the person wearing the microphone and transmit it up to 20 metres to the hearing aid.