Unilateral hearing loss occurs when you have poorer hearing or no hearing at all in one ear. If this is a severe or profound hearing loss, the condition is also called unilateral deafness. Unilateral hearing loss is not uncommon.
Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children Could Affect Development
Unilateral hearing loss in children can affect the development of speech comprehension, language, and social skills.
The earlier hearing-impaired children are treated by a doctor, the more likely it is that they will later develop their full potential.
There are special hearing tests for young children as well as hearing tests for older age children that can detect hearing loss in children.
If it is suspected that a child has hearing loss, a specialist should be consulted as soon as possible.
What is Unilateral Hearing Loss?
Unilateral hearing loss is also called unilateral deafness when it occurs in a severe or profound form because the patient’s hearing is so severely impaired that they can no longer hear any sound in the affected ear.
Specifically, unilateral deafness should be understood as a condition in which a person’s hearing ability is severely limited on one side of the head and fully functional on the other side (i.e., the “good ear”).
If the person has a severe or profound hearing loss, he or she usually hears with only one ear. This is also known as unilateral listening, or technically, monaural listening. Unilateral deafness is also referred to as one-sided deafness.
Signs of hearing loss in children
You should always be alert to whether your child is responding to a sound appropriately for the hearing situation. A lack of response may indicate a hearing loss. In some cases, it is difficult to detect mild forms of hearing loss, such as a hearing loss in only one ear. Always remember that the child’s ability to hear and learn can be affected by even a mild hearing loss.
The most important sign of a possible hearing loss is a lack of or delayed speech development. The following signs may also indicate that a child has hearing problems:
The child does not notice when someone is talking out of his or her field of vision, even if there is very little distraction.
Startled or surprised look when the child realizes his or her name has been called.
Sits near the TV if the TV volume is loud enough for other family members.
It turns up TVs and stereos excessively loud.
Your child does not respond to voices on the phone and/or keeps switching the receiver from one ear to the other.
It does not startle at loud noises.
In a schoolchild, even a slight hearing loss can cause him or her to be unable to follow lessons and to display behavioral problems.
Causes of hearing loss in children
Hearing loss can be present at birth (congenital) or occur after birth (acquired). About 50% of all cases of congenital hearing loss are due to genetic factors.1 If this is not the case, various other causes may be considered, such as:
- prenatal infections
- ingestion of ototoxic medications, drugs, or alcohol
- Premature birth
- other complications at birth
Acquired hearing loss can occur after birth as a result of illness or injury. If you don’t know what caused your child’s hearing loss, it’s best to ask the pediatrician.
Types of hearing loss in children
When a child suffers from hearing loss, the primary distinction is whether the hearing loss is from the inner, middle, or outer ear.
Types of hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss
Hearing loss that occurs in the outer or middle ear is called conductive hearing loss. In the conductive hearing loss, the inner ear functions normally. The cause is in the outer or middle ear and results in obstruction of sound transmission to the inner ear. In children, conductive hearing loss is usually temporary. Sounds from the outside then become quieter, while you hear your own voice louder than normal.
Causes of conductive hearing loss
Middle ear infection (otitis media)
– Otitis media is the most common cause of conductive hearing loss in children. Most people experience at least one ear infection during childhood.
-Cerumen that lodges in the ear canal acts as an earplug, blocking sound waves from reaching the eardrum. Excess cerumen can be dissolved and rinsed out by a doctor or hearing care professional using wax-softening drops, for example. Cotton swabs should never be used to remove cerumen, as this can cause it to penetrate deeper into the ear canal and injure the eardrum.
Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) – Another common condition of the external ear canal is called the swimmer’s ear. This painful bacterial infection can occur when the ear canal remains wet after bathing or swimming. It can cause swelling of the ear canal and lead to temporary hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss
When hearing loss affects the inner ear, it is called sensorineural hearing loss. This is due to a dysfunction in the cochlea (sensory) or in the auditory pathway to the brain and often exists from birth. It can also be the result of noise exposure, age, or ototoxic treatment (medications that damage hearing). This type of hearing loss is permanent and cannot be treated with medication or surgery. Most children can be helped with hearing aids, and in certain cases, cochlear implants.
Noise-induced hearing loss is the only type of hearing loss that can be completely prevented. Too much noise can cause irreversible hearing damage. Protect your child from excessive noise exposure by making sure he or she does not spend time in environments with excessive noise levels and/or wears hearing protection.
Combined hearing loss
Sometimes there is a combination of factors that results in impairment of both the middle and inner ear (cochlea). This is called combined hearing loss.