Hearing aids can be helpful for all people with hearing loss, whether it is in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
Some people with a vestibular disorder experience hearing loss. The hearing loss may be mild in some cases or can fluctuate. There are specific hearing problems for people with Ménière’s but most can be helped by the range of aids available. Visit your audiology department/hearing therapist for advice on your own personal condition.
If your hearing does not recover following an attack, you may notice difficulties following conversations in demanding listening environments, like a busy restaurant, or when listening from a distance. Depending on the extent or severity of your hearing loss, you may also find it challenging to tell which direction sounds are coming from. These difficulties can, in turn, affect an individual’s mental well-being, causing anxiety or worry; and social well-being, triggering withdrawal from social activities that are too demanding.
What can you do about it
Your audiologist will be able to advise you on available hearing aids that are suitable for your hearing loss. Sometimes a conventional hearing aid can help. However, if the extent of hearing loss on the affected side is quite severe, you may have to be fitted with a device that ‘re-routes’ sounds to your better-hearing ear.
Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) Hearing System
The most commonly used device is the Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) hearing system by Phonak, Oticon or Signia. It is made up of two parts: a wireless microphone which is mounted onto the poor-hearing ear and is paired to a hearing aid that is worn on the better-hearing ear. Your audiologist can programme this on the basis of your hearing test results, and can advise you on how best to use it. Background noise can affect how well the CROS hearing system performs, so you may find that you have to position yourself in a space that reduces the interference. Using other communication strategies also helps.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA)
An alternative ‘re-routing’ device is the Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA), which transmits signals from the poor-hearing ear to the better-hearing ear via bone vibration. There are two different types of BAHA devices: a percutaneous device by Oticon Medical™ or Cochlear™ Baha® where a titanium fixture, the abutment, is placed on the skull bone behind the ear; and a transcutaneous device, known as the Baha® Attract where a magnet is placed under the skin. This treatment requires an audiological assessment and a trial of the device in your own environment, by wearing it on a headband, for a period of 2-4 weeks. If it is found to be beneficial during the trial period, it can be implanted by an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon. Similarly to the CROS hearing system, careful positioning in the listening environment and communication strategies should be used for most benefit.
A new adhesive bone conduction device, the ADHEAR by MedEl is also available and has been reported to be a viable option for unilateral hearing loss.
Middle Ear or Cochlear Implant
Less commonly available treatments for severe-to-profound unilateral hearing loss restore the hearing in the poor-hearing ear by surgically inserting a hearing device, such as a middle ear implant or a cochlear implant. They help by stimulating the poor-hearing ear directly, and some studies have shown that these treatments can help with locating of sounds and hearing in noisy environments.
However, there is still uncertainty with regards to which treatment choices are best for one-sided hearing loss. This is due to the lack of consistency in the way that treatments are tested and results reported by clinicians and scientists. Scientists are working hard to improve consistency, so it is easier to compare and combine the evidence to make an informed decision.
You won’t know if a device will help you unless you try it. So, speak to your audiologist or ENT consultant at the first opportunity.
Thank you to Roulla Katiri, CROSSSD Study, for kindly providing this information.
Further information (links to other organisations)
- Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults (ATLA)
- Hearing Aids for Music Resources
- Hearing Link
- Music - Listening with Hearing Aids
- NHS Choices – Hearing Problems
- RNID - National Hearing Loss Charity
- Sudden Hearing Loss Support
The Ménière's Society can not recommend a particular manufacturer, product, device or organisation. Please speak with your medical professional to find the most suitable hearing aid/system to suit you.