The loss of hearing in one ear - unilateral hearing loss or single sided deafness - SSD - is more common and more troublesome than most people realize.
Unilateral hearing loss or single sided deafness, also known as SSD, is typically caused by viral infections, Meniere's disease, head or ear injuries, or through surgical intervention to remove brain tumours.
The symptoms of unilateral hearing loss vary. In addition to impaired hearing on one side, some people may have difficulty determining the direction of sounds. This can make it dangerous to cross a street or otherwise navigate in traffic. Others may be unable to hear sounds from a particular direction. The most common symptom is an inability to separate background noise from the sounds you want to hear.
For those who have not experienced unilateral hearing loss (single sided deafness / SSD) , it is difficult to appreciate the handicaps presented and the lifestyle changes that occur for the victims of this type of hearing loss. Many patients learn to live with a unilateral hearing loss. Others have to make major life changes as they may feel highly uncomfortable and no longer easily able to cope in everyday environments, such as business meetings, busy restaurants or family gatherings.
No reliable figure exists for the number of people with unilateral hearing loss. But in the United States alone, an estimated 60,000 people per year acquire this condition, and in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that more than 9,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.
Treatment options for unilateral hearing loss (single sided deafness / SSD) are available, but many patients remain untreated, in part because of lack of awareness of this condition among family doctors and the general public.
Sources: www.Audiologyonline.com, Single Sided Deafness: Issues and Alternatives, 5/31/2004, by Teri Sinopoli, M.A., CCC-A, AAA, and BBC News, 13 June, 2003.
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