Single Sided Hearing Aids Introduction

In a world filled with sounds, from the gentle rustling of leaves to the vibrant conversations that fill our days, the ability to hear is a gift that many of us take for granted. However, for individuals with unilateral hearing loss (UHL), the loss of hearing in just one ear creates many challenges highly affects their quality of life. UHL not only affects one’s ability to perceive sounds but also creates challenges in daily activities, making tasks like understanding conversations in noisy environments or determining the direction of a sound source particularly difficult.

A common question that arises is, “Can I buy just one hearing aid (single sided hearing aids)?” The answer is a resounding yes. Fortunately, advancements in audiology have brought to the markets specialized hearing aids designed specifically for those with hearing loss in one ear. By selecting the right hearing aid tailored to their unique needs, individuals with UHL can significantly enhance their hearing capabilities, bridging the gap between silence and sound, and thereby improving their overall quality of life.

Understanding Unilateral Hearing Loss (UHL):

Image Credit: https://www.hearusa.com/hearing-loss/unilateral-hearing-loss/

Unilateral Hearing Loss (UHL) is defined as a hearing impairment that affects only one ear, while the other ear retains normal or near-normal hearing. This condition can range from mild to profound, and its onset can be sudden or gradual.

There are several causes of UHL:

Congenital Conditions: Some individuals are born with UHL due to genetic factors or complications during pregnancy and childbirth. These congenital conditions can result from infections during pregnancy, premature birth, or genetic predispositions.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL): This is an unexpected and rapid loss of hearing, typically in one ear. It can occur over a few hours or up to three days. The exact cause of SSHL remains unknown, but it is believed to be related to viral infections, blood circulation issues, or a malfunction within the inner ear.

Trauma: Physical injuries, such as a blow to the head or sudden changes in air pressure, can lead to UHL. Additionally, prolonged exposure to loud noises or sounds can also cause damage to the hearing mechanisms of one ear.

Individuals with UHL often face a unique set of challenges that can significantly impact their daily lives. One of the primary difficulties is the inability to localize sounds. For instance, determining the direction from which a car is approaching or pinpointing the source of a voice in a crowded room can be challenging. This happens because most of the localization tasks are performed by the auditory system using the acoustic signals from both ears.

If UHL is present, the input acoustic signal from one side is usually perceived as very attenuated, therefore the localization perception is usually affected. This can pose safety risks and make certain environments, like busy streets or bustling social gatherings, particularly daunting. Another significant challenge is understanding speech in noisy environments. Without the input from both ears, filtering out background noise and focusing on a single conversation becomes much more difficult. This can lead to feelings of isolation, as individuals with UHL might avoid social situations or places with significant ambient noise.

In essence, while UHL might seem like a minor inconvenience to some, it presents a series of challenges that can profoundly affect an individual’s quality of life. Recognizing these challenges is the first step towards finding effective solutions, such as specialized hearing aids, to address them. For those wondering, “can I buy just one hearing aid (single sided hearing aids)”, the answer is yes, and it can be a viable solution for those with UHL to improve their auditory experience.

Types of Hearing Aids for Unilateral Hearing Loss:

Image Credit: Oticon

For individuals with Unilateral Hearing Loss (UHL), not just any hearing aid will do. The unique nature of their condition requires specialized solutions tailored to address the challenges they face. Two of the most effective and commonly recommended systems for UHL are the CROS (Contralateral Routing of Signals) and BiCROS (Bilateral Contralateral Routing of Signals) hearing aids.

CROS Hearing Aids: Designed specifically for those with UHL, CROS hearing aids work by capturing sound from the side with the hearing impairment. A microphone placed on the impaired ear picks up sounds, which are then wirelessly transmitted to a receiver on the better-hearing ear. This allows the user to hear sounds from their impaired side through their better ear, providing a more balanced auditory experience.

BiCROS Hearing Aids: BiCROS systems are suitable for individuals who have UHL in one ear and a degree of hearing loss in the other. Like the CROS system, the BiCROS captures sound from the impaired ear. However, instead of just transmitting it to the better ear, the system amplifies sounds for both ears. This means that while the sound from the impaired side is routed to the better-hearing ear, the better ear also receives its own amplification, ensuring clarity and balance in both ears.

Both CROS and BiCROS systems have revolutionized the way individuals with UHL experience the world of sound. By effectively routing and amplifying sounds, these hearing aids bridge the auditory gap, allowing users to engage more fully in conversations, enjoy a wider range of auditory experiences, and navigate their environments with increased confidence.

Benefits and Features of CROS and BiCROS Hearing Aids:

best hearing aid for one ear only

The world of audiology has seen remarkable advancements in recent years, and the development of CROS and BiCROS hearing aids stands as a testament to this progress. These specialized systems offer a plethora of benefits tailored to the unique needs of individuals with Unilateral Hearing Loss (UHL).

 Advantages of CROS and BiCROS Systems:

  • Improved Sound Localization: One of the primary challenges faced by those with UHL is determining the direction of sounds. CROS and BiCROS hearing aids aim to address this issue by routing sounds from the impaired ear to the better-hearing ear, allowing users to more accurately pinpoint the origin of sounds in their environment.
  • Enhanced Speech Understanding: Conversations, especially in noisy environments, can be challenging for those with UHL. These systems amplify and clarify speech, making it easier for users to engage in conversations even in settings with significant background noise.
  • Balanced Hearing Experience: By transmitting sounds from the impaired side to the better-hearing ear, CROS and BiCROS systems provide a more symmetrical auditory experience. This balance ensures that users don’t miss out on sounds from any direction, offering a fuller and richer auditory landscape.
  • Additional Features and Technologies: Beyond the primary benefits, modern CROS and BiCROS hearing aids come equipped with a range of features that further enhance the listening experience:
  • Wireless Connectivity: Many of these hearing aids offer Bluetooth connectivity, allowing users to stream audio directly from devices like smartphones, televisions, and computers. This feature ensures clearer sound quality and a more immersive listening experience.
  • Noise Reduction: Advanced noise reduction technology filters out background noises, ensuring that the user hears what’s most important. This is especially beneficial in environments like busy streets or crowded restaurants.
  • Feedback Cancellation: Feedback, or the annoying whistling sound sometimes produced by hearing aids, can be a challenge. Modern CROS and BiCROS systems come with feedback cancellation technology, ensuring that users enjoy a feedback-free listening experience.

Top CROS and BiCROS Hearing Aids for 2023

Several leading manufacturers have developed specialized CROS devices tailored to enhance the auditory experience of those with unilateral hearing loss. For those wondering, “can I buy just one hearing aid (single sided hearing aids)”, these CROS devices are a viable solution. Here are some top picks [1]:

1. Phonak CROS: Superior Bluetooth Connectivity

best hearing aid for one ear only

Phonak, a renowned name in the hearing aid industry, has pioneered CROS technology. Their CROS hearing aid, integrated with the Phonak Paradise platform, boasts a plethora of features. Available in both rechargeable and size 13 battery variants, it’s compatible with the myPhonak app and supports both iPhone and Android devices.

Pros:

  • Ideal for Android users due to its Bluetooth Classic feature, ensuring versatile device connectivity.
  • The rechargeable case, equipped with a drying capsule compartment, is perfect for those with an active lifestyle.

Cons:

  • Inability to disable notifications when Bluetooth is connected.
  • The hearing aids might be challenging to remove from the charger for those with dexterity issues.
  • The battery variant, size 13, is bulkier than the 312.

2. Oticon CROS: AI-Driven Noise Reduction

Oticon CROS single sided hearing aids

Οticon’s CROS PX, compatible with Oticon More, offers both forward and backward compatibility with various Oticon models. It’s available in rechargeable and size 312 battery options and is compatible with the Oticon ON app for both iPhone and some Android models.

Pros:

  • An excellent choice for iPhone users.
  • User-friendly rechargeable case suitable for all dexterity levels.
  • In-office replaceable rechargeable battery.
  • Sleeker profile with the size 312 battery option.
  • “Find My Hearing Aid” feature available in the app.

Cons:

  • The app’s simplicity restricts extensive adjustments.
  • Connectivity can be less stable due to the ASHA protocol.

3. Signia CROS X: Outstanding Battery Longevity

single sided hearing aids

Designed to complement the Signia Pure Charge&Go hearing aid, the Signia CROS X is available in both rechargeable and size 312 battery options. It’s compatible with the Signia app, supporting both iPhone and Android.

Pros:

  • Comes with a convenient charging case.
  • The app’s ‘mask mode’ enhances speech clarity.
  • Allows adjustments like microphone directionality via the app.

Cons:

  • Basic models require app usage for volume adjustments or other settings, bypassing the physical button.

For individuals with Single-Sided Deafness (SSD), CROS hearing aids can be transformative, especially when the sound source is on the side of the impaired ear. It’s essential to utilize the trial period of your hearing aid to determine the best fit for your needs. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Hearing Aid for One Ear:

single sided hearing aids

Choosing the right hearing aid for unilateral hearing loss is a decision that can significantly impact one’s quality of life. It’s not just about amplifying sound; it’s about enhancing the overall auditory experience.

Here are some crucial factors to consider:

  • Degree of Hearing Loss: The severity of hearing loss in the impaired ear is paramount. Different devices accommodate varying levels of hearing impairment, from mild to profound. Ensure the chosen hearing aid aligns with the specific degree of hearing loss you experience.
  • Personal Preferences: Everyone has unique preferences when it comes to comfort, style, and functionality. Some may prioritize discreet in-the-ear models, while others might prefer behind-the-ear devices with more features.
  • Lifestyle: Your daily activities and environments play a significant role. If you’re frequently in noisy settings, you’ll benefit from a hearing aid with advanced noise-cancellation features. Similarly, if you lead an active lifestyle, water-resistant or durable models might be more suitable.
  • Budget: Hearing aids come in a wide price range. While it’s essential not to compromise on quality, it’s equally important to find a device that fits within your budget. Some brands offer financing options or warranties that can add value to your purchase.
  • Technological Features: Modern hearing aids come equipped with a plethora of features, from Bluetooth connectivity to AI-driven noise reduction. Determine which features align with your needs and daily activities.
  • The Role of an Audiologist: While these factors provide a guideline, the expertise of an audiologist is invaluable. An audiologist can conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your hearing, understanding the nuances of your hearing loss. They can then provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs, ensuring you select a hearing aid that offers optimal performance and comfort. Remember, a hearing aid isn’t just a device; it’s an investment in your quality of life. Trusting a professional can make this journey smoother and more effective.

Real-Life Experiences and Testimonials:

Let’s have a look at some testimonials regarding CROS hearing aids.

Angie Aspinall [2], an award-winning entrepreneur, faced the challenges of single-sided hearing loss after being diagnosed with otosclerosis. For years, she relied on lipreading and positioning to cope. At 42, she experienced a sudden loss in her better ear, intensifying her struggles.

However, her discovery of the Phonak CROS, a non-surgical solution, transformed her life. This device, designed for those with single-sided hearing, allowed Angie to once again enjoy the simple auditory pleasures of life, from the sound of her boots on the pavement to the chirping of birds. Angie’s journey highlights the profound impact modern hearing solutions can have on improving the quality of life for individuals with hearing challenges. This might make one wonder, “can I buy just one hearing aid (single sided hearing aids)?”

Below are some reviews found on Facebook [3]:

A review from Jarrod B., states: “I just purchased the Cros Pure charge and go for my left ear, and the 3nx pure charge and go for my right ear and I absolutely love them! Finally, get to experience what it’s like to finally hear!”

Another review from Facebook user Kirk Conyers on July 17, 2019, states: “The ability to hear the conversation at a big table in a crowded restaurant using the spatial configurator is breathtaking. I can usually hear conversations better than the rest of the table.”

Best Hearing Aid For One Ear Only Conclusion:

The emergence of specialized hearing aids for unilateral hearing loss has brought hope for many. The journey from silence to sound, as illustrated by real-life experiences like Angie Aspinall’s, underscores the transformative power of these devices. Whether it’s the CROS or BiCROS systems, these hearing aids are more than just tools; they are gateways to a richer, fuller auditory experience.

As we’ve explored, best hearing aid for one ear only, and the options available today are tailored to cater to the unique challenges of those with single-sided deafness. From understanding the characteristics of UHL to the technological marvels embedded in modern devices, it’s evident that the world of audiology is continuously evolving to enhance the quality of life for its users.

So, if you or someone you know is asking, “Can I buy just one hearing aid (single sided hearing aids)?”, rest assured that the answer is not only a ‘yes’, but it’s also accompanied by a suite of options designed to meet individual needs. In the end, the goal is simple: to bridge the gap between silence and sound, ensuring that everyone can enjoy life’s auditory experiences.

References:

[1] Soundly. Single-sided CROS hearing aids. Retrieved from https://www.soundly.com/blog/single-sided-cros-hearing-aids

[2] Phonak. CROS II: The smart solution for single-sided hearing. Retrieved from https://www.phonakpro.com/content/dam/phonakpro/gc_hq/en/products_solutions/hearing_aid/cros_ii/documents/pamphlet_btbtc_cros_ii_ssh_and_you_028-1448.pdf

[3] Hearing Health & Technology Matters. (2023). Signia hearing aids: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Retrieved from https://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearing-aid-reviews/2023/signia-hearing-aids-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

Eleftheria Georganti
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Eleftheria's world revolves around sound - whether it's designing high-quality audio applications, crunching numbers in audio signal processing (DSP), decoding room acoustics, listening to music or crafting the latest hearing aid technology and new features. She has a professional career spanning over 15 years and a strong research record (over 40 articles and patents) and has been the driving force behind top-notch products at leading hearing aid and audio tech companies. But what really makes her enthusiastic is sharing what she knows. As an avid writer, she loves spreading the word on the science of hearing, hearing aids and health technologies. Her ultimate goal? To give people with hearing impairments the insights they need to live their best life.

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