Unilateral Hearing Loss

A unilateral hearing loss means that only one ear is affected by hearing loss.  Most quiet listening situations will not be difficult because one ear has normal hearing.  However, a child may have trouble hearing in noisy places or finding the source of a sound.

Unilateral hearing loss can be present at birth or may develop later in life. The amount of hearing loss in the affected ear can range from mild to a total loss.

Common Causes

Some of the common causes of unilateral hearing loss include:

  • Infections / viruses such as CMV, meningitis and mumps
  • Genetics
  • Structural abnormalities
Talk to your doctor about testing that may help find the cause of your child’s hearing loss.

Diagnosis

There are several types of hearing tests for children that may help determine the extent of a child's hearing loss.

How Will You Know

Some children with unilateral hearing loss are identified after they do not pass their newborn hearing screening. Often unilateral hearing loss is not discovered until a child reaches school age. Many children are identified at in-school hearing screenings. Others are identified from caregiver concerns about inattention, behavioral issues and learning difficulties.

Treatment

If your child's hearing loss is permanent, treatment will most likely include some form of amplification, such as:

  • Hearing aids: May help those with less severe degrees of hearing loss.
  • CROS (contralateral routine of signal) hearing system: A device on the impaired side picks up sound and delivers it to a device on the good ear. Appropriate for more severe degrees of hearing loss.
  • Bone conduction devices: For children who cannot wear a traditional hearing aid. These devices attach to a soft headband or to a surgically implanted titanium post behind the ear to transmit sound vibrations through the skull to the inner ear. Learn more about bone conduction devices
  • Hearing assistance technology (HAT): For use in the classroom. These systems amplify the teacher's voice through a microphone and send a clear signal to the child's ear through a hearing device. The system helps limit background noise. It makes it easier for the child to hear and understand speech.
  • Cochlear implants: A Cochlear implant for unilateral hearing loss is not an FDA-approved use of the device, but may be considered if appropriate and/or part of a research study.

Your audiologist will discuss the options and help find the best device for your child.

Learn more about the amplification process.

What Can You Do to Help Your Child?

At home and school

  • Position yourself near the good ear and speak clearly.
  • Watch your child’s reactions to see if information is understood, especially in noisy places. Ask questions to make sure they understand information.
  • Teach them to turn the good ear to a speaker, or to stand close to others when playing outside.
  • Encourage your child to become comfortable asking people to repeat themselves when they don’t hear the speaker well.
  •  Have their speech and language development checked on a regular basis

At school

  • Talk with your child’s teachers to find ways to improve the listening in the classroom.
  • Ask that your child sit in the front of the class, away from noise sources, which may include air conditioners or open windows or doors.
  • Ask the teacher to repeat instructions or write them down.
  •  Make sure the teacher’s face is visible to your child.

Be aware that an ear infection in the good ear can decrease your child’s overall ability to hear and may impact behavior at home and/or at school.

Last Updated 03/2018

Who treats this.

The Division of Audiology at Cincinnati Children’s is one of the largest pediatric audiology programs in the nation. Early intervention and active collaboration with your family can change the outcome for your child with a hearing problem.

Contact us.