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Hearing Loss in Only One Ear, "What's the Big Deal?"

Mary Humitz, AuD, CCC-A, FAAA, Melissa Tumblin

August 27, 2018

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Question

Hearing loss in only one ear, “what’s the big deal?”

Answer

Listening & Learning Challenges

  • In the presence of noise, it will be harder for a child with unilateral hearing loss to pick up new words. 
  • Hearing from a distance is a challenge.
  • Children with unilateral hearing loss may be 10 times more likely to fail a grade in school or need special help to keep up.
  • 1/3 to 1/2 of children with hearing loss who have not received help to hear better have problems learning in school. 

Children with unilateral hearing loss may be 10 times more likely to fall behind and need special help to keep up in school, compared to their average hearing peers. Because most rules of social interaction are learned via subtle auditory cues and visual cues, rather than direct teaching. It isn’t a surprise that about 1/5 of these children will develop behavior or social issues. Learning issues, inside and outside the classroom are largely due to missing incidental speech that occurs in the environment. Often the big question from professionals and from parents is, "What's the big deal? "It's hearing loss in only one ear." Parents, educators, health professionals might say, "The child's doing fine. "They're doing fine in school, she is getting good grades. What's the big deal?" Even though a child hears well in one ear, whenever there's noise or the speaker or sound is at a distance the child will miss part of what is being said or the sound that's being heard. We all know how difficult these situations can be to hear and the amount of effort used in noisy and complex situations. 

Audiogram of unilateral sensorineural hearing loss

Figure 1. Audiogram of unilateral sensorineural hearing loss. 

A bone anchored system, such as the Ponto is a beneficial solution for several patient groups with unilateral hearing loss. Figure 1 shows the audiogram of a person with single-sided deafness. These patients have severe hearing loss on one side, often a completely deaf cochlea, and one cochlea that has normal hearing on the other side. In this instance a sound processor is placed on the non-hearing, deaf side, and picks up sound that is transferred to the functioning better ear cochlea on the opposite side via bone conduction.

This Ask the Expert is an excerpt from the CE Course, Unilateral Hearing Loss: Advocating for Children through Early Intervention Services and in the Classroom


mary humitz

Mary Humitz, AuD, CCC-A, FAAA

Midwest Clinical Specialist

Dr. Humitz is the Midwest Clinical Specialist.    During her many years with Oticon, Inc she was responsible for new and continuing educational programs, delivering presentations at local, regional, online and national training/seminars and conventions; technical product training, sales support, and audiology field support for pediatrics. Prior to joining Oticon Mary she served in a number of different capacitates, including: private practice; educational and clinical audiology; trainer for another hearing aid manufacturer; and management at a suburban Detroit Hospital.  Mary holds a clinical doctorate degree from Arizona School of Health Sciences at A.T. Still University.


melissa tumblin

Melissa Tumblin

Founder and Executive Director of the Ear Community

Melissa Tumblin is mom to Alyssa "Ally" Tumblin, a child born with right sided Microtia and Aural Atresia.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of Ear Community, a nonprofit organization that promotes educational and public awareness about Microtia and Atresia and hearing loss, in an unbiased manner, while promoting advocacy and connecting individuals in the same situation. She is also the founder of the Microtia and Atresia Support Group on Facebook.  She is a past board member for the Hands & Voices Organization and a past council member for the Parent Advocacy Family Council for Children's Hospital Colorado (Bill Daniels Center for Children's Hearing).  She has spoken at microtia and atresia surgical conferences and has presented at past EAA (Educational Audiology Association) conferences and for AudiologyOnline.  Melissa has over 15 years experience in marketing medical device equipment.


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Unilateral Hearing Loss: Advocating for Children through Early Intervention Services and in the Classroom
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