Unilateral Hearing Loss

Adults with Unilateral Hearing Loss

People occasionally ask if they really need two hearing aids. The answer is, yes, you do. If you need to save money, it’s much better to get two less expensive hearing aids than one high tech hearing aid.

There two reasons why, but first I have to explain that if one ear is at least 30dB better than the other, you brain ignores the poorer (unaided) ear. Even if the sound is loud enough for the unaided hear to hear, the brain can’t use it. Having explained that, unilateral hearing loss presents two problems:

1) Inability to tell where sound is coming from, which is a safety issue.

2) Significant difficulty hearing in noise. (For anyone who has normal hearing, I strongly recommend you experience this by putting one earplug deeply in one ear and have dinner at a loud restaurant. You’ll see how much harder it is to hear in noise with only one normal ear.)



Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children

For kids, unilateral hearing loss is an even bigger deal than doctors and teachers often think.

1) Kids with a hearing loss on one side are 10 times more likely to fail a grade or need help keeping up in school.

2) Kids with hearing loss in one ear are 5 times more likely to have some problems getting along with others. As Hellen Keller said, “Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.”

It’s also more important to act as soon as possible than doctors and teachers may assume. Children pick up most of their language between ages one and five. The time between ages one and five is called the critical period.

Schools will set up special individual support for kids with hearing loss. It’s referred to as an IEP or a “504”. Here are a few typical accommodations, but there are many more:

1) Preferential seating
2) Extra time for taking tests.
3) FM amplification systems
4) Classroom noise reduction
5) Buddy system for notes and in class explanation
6) Dictation apps

Karen L. Anderson, PhDSupporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss