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What You Should Know About Asymmetrical Hearing Loss

If your hearing loss is worse in one ear than the other, you may have asymmetrical hearing loss. Here is what you need to know about asymmetrical hearing loss.

What is asymmetrical hearing loss?

Asymmetrical hearing loss refers to a condition in which there is a difference in hearing ability between the two ears. This can occur due to a variety of factors such as exposure to loud noise, ear infections, injury, or certain medical conditions. While a slight hearing difference between the two ears is normal, significant variation (more than 10 dB) is not typical. This is classified as asymmetrical hearing loss when the difference is 15 dB or greater.

What causes asymmetrical hearing loss?

Asymmetrical hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Exposure to loud noise — Prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. This can be more severe in one ear than the other if the individual is exposed to more noise on one side (e.g., working with loud machinery or attending loud events).
  • Ear infections — Ear infections can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss and can be more severe in one ear than the other.
  • Trauma — Head injuries or injuries to the ear can cause hearing loss, and this can be more significant in one ear than the other.
  • Medical conditions — Certain medical conditions, such as Meniere’s disease, otosclerosis, and acoustic neuromas, can lead to asymmetrical hearing loss.
  • Tumors — Tumors of the ear or brain can also cause asymmetrical hearing loss.
  • Genetic factors — Some genetic disorders can cause asymmetrical hearing loss, such as Usher Syndrome.

It is important to note that in some cases, the cause of asymmetrical hearing loss may not be able to be determined. A hearing specialist can help to determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.

How is asymmetrical hearing loss treated?

Treatment for asymmetrical hearing loss will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Some common treatment options include:

  • Hearing aids — Hearing aids can help to amplify sounds for individuals with hearing loss, even if the hearing loss is asymmetrical. The hearing aids can be programmed to amplify sounds differently in each ear to compensate for the asymmetry.
  • Cochlear implants — Cochlear implants can help individuals with severe hearing loss to hear by converting sound into electrical signals that are sent directly to the auditory nerve.
  • Bone-anchored hearing devices — A bone-anchored hearing device is surgically implanted. This may be suggested if the hearing loss is too great in one ear to be effectively treated with programmable hearing aids.
  • Surgery — In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the underlying cause of the asymmetrical hearing loss. For example, if a tumor is causing the hearing loss, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent further hearing loss and to improve the quality of life.

If you believe that you may have asymmetrical hearing loss, please contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to assist you.

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How to Train Your Brain to Better Hear in Noise

When you listen, you focus on one source of sound, such as the voice of the person you are talking to or the TV show you are watching. Your brain automatically filters out background noise, such as traffic noise, background music, or other conversations happening around you. This can be difficult in some circumstances, and it can be especially challenging if you have hearing loss. However, with practice, you can train your brain to better hear in noise.

Background Noise and Hearing Aids

When you first start using hearing aids, you may find that it is more difficult than it used to be to filter out background noise. This may be because your hearing aids amplify all sounds, not just the ones you want to hear. Do not give in to the temptation to take out your hearing aids. Instead, learn to use your hearing aids’ features to better hear in noise.

With today’s hearing aid technology, you can choose from settings and filters that you may control from your phone, such as background noise reduction. This technology is known as digital signal processing (DSP), which is designed to identify background noise and lower its volume.

Many hearing aids also come with directional microphones, which allow you to choose the direction of sound you want to focus on. For example, if you are attending a concert or play, you can set your aids to focus on the sounds coming from in front of you rather than behind you.

If you are often in situations with lots of background noise, it is best to talk to your hearing aid specialist about the types of hearing aids that will work best for your needs. Your hearing specialist will also be able to help you learn how to use the settings for your hearing aids to best filter out background noise.

Train Your Brain to Hear Better in Noise

In addition to using hearing aids that can filter out background noise, you may also want to try auditory training. The goal of auditory training is to help you learn to more easily distinguish speech from other noise. There are many hearing training apps and programs available on your computer or mobile phone. If you would like more help than an app can offer, you can ask your hearing specialist about auditory rehabilitation.

Auditory training usually targets three key skills needed for effective communication:

  1. Working memory — Working memory is necessary during conversation to remember words and their context. Research suggests that declines in working memory can decrease speech understanding in older people.
  2. Auditory processing speed — This usually drops as you age, which explains why older people often have trouble keeping up with normal speech speeds.
  3. Auditory attention — This skill enables you to filter out distractions and focus on one sound, such as a voice.

With auditory training and hearing aids, you can hear better in noise. To learn more, please contact our hearing specialist today.