Single-sided deafness (SSD) can create difficulties for people localizing sound and listening in the noisy situations. This can lead to negative impacts on communication and socialization. SSD can be caused by viral infections, head trauma, Meniere’s Disease, or have an unknown cause. Treatment options have been limited, with cochlear implants typically reserved for people with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.
On July 22, 2019, Med-El USA, a manufacturer of cochlear implants, announced that the Food & Drug administration approved their cochlear implant for people 5 years and older with profound hearing loss in one ear and normal to mild hearing loss in the other. Research supporting the approval shows that SSD participants had improvements in speech understanding in quiet and noise, and improvements in sound localization when they obtained the cochlear implant.
Cochlear implantation still requires certain testing and considerations, but is a step forward for the treatment of single-sided hearing loss.
What is an Audiologist?
When a hearing loss or balance disorder is suspected a decision must be made regarding where to seek help. An audiologist is a health care professional who provides patient centered care in order to identify, diagnose and treat hearing loss and balance disorders using evidence based practice. An audiologist aims to provide personalized services to minimize the negative impact of hearing loss and ultimately lead to improved quality of life.
Audiologists are required to hold a doctorate degree in audiology ( Au.D.) through an accredited university graduate program. They must also pass board examinations to receive licensing and accreditation. In addition, audiologists are required to earn continuing education credits in order to remain knowledgeable of the most current research based practice and rehabilitation methods. Based on their level of education, certification and licensing requirements, audiologists are the most qualified professionals to complete diagnostic tests, refer for medical intervention and provide rehabilitation services.
How can an Audiologist help my hearing?
A hearing aid is often used to manage hearing loss. A hearing aid is very sophisticated and tiny computer that analyzes sound in the environment and provides amplification to the sound to overcome the hearing loss. An audiologist uses the results from a comprehensive evaluation to determine what part of the hearing system is affected and to what degree. This is an important step because the results will allow the audiologist to determine whether a hearing aid is an appropriate treatment or not. If hearing aids are recommended the audiologist uses the test results combined with information about the patient’s lifestyle and communication needs to determine the most appropriate style and power level of hearing aid in order to best help the patient with their listening difficulties. Another crucial role of an audiologist is to provide personalized counseling to help educate the patient regarding their specific type and degree of hearing loss. This allows the patient to establish realistic expectations regarding their potential benefit from hearing aids. Information is also provided regarding communication and self-advocacy strategies in order to give the patient control over their hearing experience and help maximize hearing aid benefit.
Audiologists and hearing aids
One of the most important components of the hearing aid process is the follow up care provided by the audiologist. Best practice methods include programming hearing aid settings based on verification measures (objective data) and patient feedback regarding their experience (subjective data). Verification of the hearing aid settings using a tiny microphone in the patient’s ear allows the audiologist to ensure proper programming based on the patient’s hearing loss and the anatomy of their ear canal. Incorporating the patient’s report and feedback ensure that their specific needs are met. A hearing aid is an investment in your health and wellness and when thinking about purchasing hearing aid it is important to find out the types of services and the level of care that you will receive with your purchase. Many audiologists include programming adjustments, verification tests and counseling in the cost of the hearing aids. This helps to ensure the patient receives high quality of care tailored to their specific needs.