What is asymmetrical hearing loss?

Asymmetrical hearing loss is when you experience hearing loss in both ears, but one ear is worse than the other. Most of the time, your hearing loss will be approximately equal in both ears, but we will occasionally see a case of asymmetrical hearing loss, and the process for treatment is usually a little different. 

Some level of asymmetry is expected when you experience hearing loss, but it’s diagnosed as asymmetrical hearing loss once it exceeds 10 decibels (dB) across at least three different frequencies.

While similar, asymmetrical hearing loss is not the same as unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness. In these two cases, one ear maintains its normal hearing abilities while the other experiences hearing loss or deafness. 

When to see a specialist for asymmetrical hearing loss?

As is the case with hearing loss in general, many people won’t recognize their hearing is changing and declining until it gets to moderate or severe levels. And, if you do notice hearing loss, it may be hard to tell if it’s the same in both ears or if one ear is worse than the other.

This is why it’s important to get annual hearing exams starting at age 50 so that you and your provider can catch hearing loss sooner than later and help establish treatment, like hearing aids. 

If, by chance, you do notice that your hearing loss is asymmetrical, it’s important to get an exam and hearing test right away, because asymmetrical hearing loss may indicate an underlying medical condition that’s best treated by an ENT or another medical provider. 

Causes and possible risks of asymmetrical hearing loss

There are a few different ways you may develop asymmetrical hearing loss, and not all of them are causes for panic. For example, you may be at risk for asymmetrical hearing loss if you served in the military or if hunting is a hobby of yours. The frequent exposure to gunshot sound in one ear over time is often called “shooter’s ear,” and is simply noise-induced hearing loss that impacts one ear more than the other. 

Another common reason for asymmetrical hearing loss is chronic middle ear infections, which can weaken your fragile ear systems over time and lead to hearing loss that’s more severe in one ear. 

On the more severe – and also more rare – side, diseases like Meniere’s disease, Otosclerosis, and even tumors can cause asymmetrical hearing loss, which is why your hearing care provider may refer you to an ENT or your primary care physician to ensure there’s not a more serious cause for your difference in hearing loss between ears. 

Options for treating asymmetrical hearing loss

Once a deeper medical diagnosis has been ruled out and depending on the severity of your hearing loss and the reason behind it, your hearing care team can recommend the best path to treatment, which may include hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing devices, or even a cochlear implant. 

Some of the hearing aid devices we offer here at Beltone Tristate have the ability to adjust the settings for each ear, allowing you to hear more evenly on both sides. Your hearing care professional will work with you to perfect the settings to ensure the ear with more severe hearing loss has better amplification. 

While the process may take some trial and error, the team at Beltone Tristate is well-equipped to handle treating asymmetrical hearing loss and ensuring you walk out of our practices hearing better and hearing more evenly. 

Experiencing any type of hearing loss – asymmetrical or not – can be frustrating and even scary, but recognizing those feelings and making the decision to seek help is the first step to better, healthier hearing! 

If you think you may be experiencing asymmetrical hearing loss, it may be time to seek out the help of an expert. Schedule a free hearing test with your local Beltone Tristate practice today!