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man getting ear check

Why Can I Hear Out of Only One Ear?

Many people who say that they have one “good” ear often actually have hearing loss in both ears. Read ahead to learn more.

What is one-sided hearing loss?

One-sided hearing loss, also known as unilateral hearing loss or UHL, refers to any mild-to-severe loss of hearing in only one ear. According to Cleveland Clinic, 1 in 1000 children is born with UHL, while 7% of adults in the US suffer from this condition.
Both children and adults with UHL face unique challenges that can make everyday life more challenging and complex.

How hearing loss makes it more difficult to localize sound

Our dual-eared auditory system is designed to pinpoint the origin of a sound. However, if you have UHL, you may have difficulty localizing sound or determining where it is coming from. This can make it difficult to understand who is speaking to you, especially in a crowd. It can be hard to follow a conversation and distinguish between speech and background noise, making it almost impossible to actively participate in the discussion.
As a result, UHL may lead to low self-esteem, misunderstandings, and feelings of exclusion.
Having just one good ear can also have safety implications, especially on the road. You may have trouble judging where a vehicle is coming from or may misjudge its proximity. As a pedestrian crossing the road or stepping into traffic, this can be dangerous.
In short, the loss of spatial hearing is a common reason for seeking treatment for hearing loss, even when one ear has relatively normal hearing.

Why one “good” ear isn’t enough

People who claim to have one "good" ear often have hearing loss in both ears. It may appear that they only have slight hearing difficulty in one ear and that the other ear is normal, but in most cases, both ears are affected by hearing loss and the so-called "good" ear is not functioning properly.
Relying on just one ear can cause fatigue and confusion, especially in complex listening environments. Some UHL cases may even a represent a bilateral condition that has a unilateral onset.

Treatment for hearing loss in one ear

Don't make the mistake of assuming that loss of hearing in one ear is not serious, or that you have no choice but to live with it. Even if the problem is restricted to one ear, it can still significantly reduce your quality of life. If you notice reduced hearing in one ear, don't ignore it just because you are able to manage well with the other ear.
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