Or perhaps that should be, how carefully are you listening? About 3,000 Australians suffer from Single Sided Deafness, a condition that is often overlooked and frequently misunderstood.
Single Sided Deafness is permanent, significant or total hearing loss in one ear. It can remain undiagnosed for a long time because, after all, there is still one good ear to use for listening, so the person affected copes and those around them may not even notice the problem.
However, the effects of the condition can be debilitating.
We have two ears for a very good reason. Two ears allow us to balance and determine direction of sound. Hearing with two ears boosts our in-built ability to focus on speech in noisy situations, hear softer sounds that surround us, and enjoy music more naturally.
Having only one “good” ear can make life more difficult. It becomes hard to follow conversations, social interaction is both exhausting and frustrating, and thereby increases irritability, stress, anxiety and even headaches.
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What if someone approaches you from the wrong side? Or an everyday event like crossing the road becomes a problem because you are unsure which direction a car is coming from?
Single Sided Deafness can occur suddenly, for no known reason, or can result from measles, mumps, trauma, acoustic neuroma tumours or hereditary disorders. People with the condition usually have normal hearing or mild hearing loss in their “good” ear, while the affected ear can have the added problems of tinnitus and/or vertigo.
So what are the options when you’ve tried a hearing aid and it doesn’t seem to help, or your hearing has deteriorated and the aid isn’t as effective as it once was? There are two options worth raising with your GP or audiologist.
A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, Cochlear Implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain. Research has also shown a significant and immediate reduction in tinnitus intensity following a Cochlear Implant in some patients and most adult recipients report substantial improvements in their ability to function in everyday life (Punte et al, 2011).
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A Cochlear Baha is a bone conduction implant system. It is best suited to people who have single-sided deafness, conductive hearing losses and those with mixed hearing losses who cannot otherwise wear “in the ear” or “behind the ear” hearing aids.
And for both Cochlear Implant and Cochlear Baha options, it’s generally just day surgery or one night in hospital that’s required.
Knowing there are choices can be reassuring for those who are constantly frustrated when speaking to strangers in the shopping centre or trying to talk to grandchildren, who have no hope of understanding “You have to talk to the left side!”
Having two functioning ears is about more than just hearing the birds singing from all directions again. Being able to hear people from either side in a group, knowing you won’t miss someone calling your name and being able to relax in company, are just some of life’s simple pleasures that can be regained thanks to these life changing devices.
Do you have hearing loss? What have you tried to restore your hearing? Tell us below.