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Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012

Unilateral Hearing Loss: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Unilateral hearing loss affects children in school.

One in 20 school age children suffer from unilateral hearing loss or hearing loss in one ear. In the past, it has been common practice not to treat hearing loss that occurred only in one ear. The assumption was that the one “normal” ear would compensate for the loss. A new study at Washington University School of Medicine has proven that long established myths claiming unilateral hearing loss does not hinder a child’s performance in school are false. Loss of hearing in one ear inhibits a child from using and recognizing language.

“Our study has shown that on average, children with hearing loss in one ear have poorer oral language scores than children with hearing in both ears.” Dr. Judith Lieu

Children with hearing loss have difficulty writing, are less socially active, and are more likely to be bullied. Those with hearing loss in one ear have these issues in addition to being less likely to get treatment for their condition. Having hearing loss in one ear also means the limits of a child's ability to understand are often misunderstood or underestimated. This lack of awareness can cause issues for the student, studies repeatedly show, “even a small change in hearing can result in huge decreases in performance in school leading to self-esteem, social and emotional problems.”

Hearing loss in one ear, unilateral hearing loss, has been shown to affect a child’s performance in school and with communication. Are hearing aids the answer?

Research has not been conducted on the benefit of unilateral hearing loss being treated with hearing aids, but the research has been done for students with varying degrees of hearing loss in both ears. That research clearly shows an advantage to children with hearing loss who wear hearing aids. As educators at MSU, point out, “numerous studies have shown improvement in attention, understanding directions, classroom participation and school behavior” when fitted with a hearing device.

“The gap between the vocabulary of children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss widens with age. Children with hearing loss do not catch up without intervention.”American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

A child will have more problems in school and with self-esteem and social settings if no intervention occurs to help with their hearing loss. Dr. Lieu supports this point, saying, "Parents, educators and pediatricians shouldn't assume that having hearing in one ear means children won't need additional assistance." Perhaps the best practice in the case of hearing loss in one ear is for a parent to take their child to an audiologist and ask them about getting a hearing aid for their child. It's easier to determine the benefit of hearing aids for a child after consulting a professional.

It makes sense to take action when it comes to unilateral hearing loss, since doing nothing is how these children ended up falling between the cracks to begin with. Make sure to have your child's hearing tested regularly and see your hearing health provider immediately if you suspect hearing loss. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!
References

Washington University School of Medicine. "Kids with hearing loss in one ear fall behind in language skills, study finds." ScienceDaily, 4 May 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.

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