Untreated hearing loss is associated with poorer health. Thus, hearing aids are no longer considered optional for treating hearing loss.
Cochlear implants (CIs) are surgically implanted devices that bypass the damaged structures of the inner ear to create a sense of sound. They provide a sense of hearing for those with severe and profound hearing losses.
While results are very variable, CIs typically provide good speech perception in quiet. However, the poor clarity makes it difficult to hear in background noise and appreciate music. This simulation and a more in-depth simulation demonstrate the poor pitch perception provided by cochlear implants. Remember, these are simulations, CI patients do not hear the hiss, noise, and static.
Cochlear implant companies advertise many different features. Currently there is no evidence that suggests that one manufacturer has better outcomes than another.
Single sided deafness (SSD) occurs when severe hearing loss occurs in only one ear. This may be the result of many conditions: sudden sensorineural hearing loss, Meniere’s disease and cochlear hydrops, head trauma, tumors, and less commonly, cholesteatoma and otosclerosis.
In SSD, only one ear is “operational,” but to hear effectively in noise and locate sound sources, two ears (binaural hearing) are needed. Binaural hearing takes advantage of time of arrival and loudness cues to localize sound and hear through noise. For example, a sound coming from a car approaching your left will arrive sooner at and be louder in your left ear than the right ear. This forms the basis for sound localization. Your brainstem performs very complex signal analysis to allow you to hear better in background noise than nearly any computer algorithm currently available.
So SSD has significant effects on hearing and for safety. Some people are able to adapt well, but most have some disability with SSD.
Treating SSD involves several steps:
- Ensure that there is no underlying disease such as tumors that could threaten health.
- Treat the underlying cause of hearing loss.
- Address hearing, either through hearing aids or cochlear implants.