Single Sided Deafness

Hearing Health & Technology Matters
September 23, 2013

Single Sided Deafness (SSD) refers to significant and usually permanent hearing loss in one ear. It is thought to affect at least 9,000 new people in the USA each year. Its most common cause is sudden deafness, which overwhelmingly results in SSD rather than bilateral deafness. Acoustic neuroma – a slow growing benign tumour of the auditory nerve – is another, though rare, cause of SSD. For many sufferers, SSD has a disabling and debilitating impact on work, home and social interaction. An impaired ability to detect the direction of sounds, and to separate background noise from target sound, can make work and social situations painfully embarrassing for some patients: in a recent study, 24% of sufferers have had to give up work as a result of SSD, and feelings of social isolation and exclusion also occur. {{1}}[[1]]Popelka, G. (2010). “SoundBite Hearing System by Sonitus Medical: A New Approach to Single-Sided Deafness”. Seminars in Hearing 31 (4): 393–409.[[1]]

Because SSD is not as common as hearing loss in both ears, awareness of SSD and its symptoms are inevitably low even among some health professionals. This results in limited or delayed referral and diagnosis, and often the failure to provide support for patients. The misconception that hearing loss in one ear does not constitute a disability can aggravate its impact on patients and delay diagnosis and treatment.  SSD cannot be cured – but can be rehabilitated.

In fact two treatments are available: bone anchored devices and a CROS aid (Contralateral Routing Of Signal), where patients wear a transmitter on the deaf ear and a receiver on the hearing ear; sound is transmitted via a wire connecting each unit. The bone anchor device is surgically implanted with two companies producing product, Oticon Ponto and Coclear’s BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid).  Another bone conduction type solution is the SoundBite, which still uses bone conduction, but is placed in the mouth at the back molars to deliver sound to the better ear.  All treatments can restore the sensation of hearing from the deaf side for SSD patients. It is generally said by patients that the implanted style device produces a better quality of sound than a CROS aid and can be easily hidden by hair. However, the implanted type does require surgery to be fitted, and involves a period of healing and continuous care of the implant. The bone anchored device is not generally restricted in its availability by funding but CROS aids are. The availability of bone anchored implants is restricted by theatre time and surgeon availability. All treatment options are available throughout the USA.

In the age of the internet there are testimonials from those with the condition.  I found a very thorough blog about SSD which I would like to pass along to our readers.  The majority of this post was written by one of the Audiology Externs working at our offices, Sanghyuk Moon.  Our offices write correspondence to referring physicians in which the externs participate.


SangSanghyuk Moon, MA, is a doctoral extern at Oro Valley/Tanque Verde Audiology and also a 4th year doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently residing in Tucson, Arizona.

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