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What is Asymmetrical Hearing Loss?

By Manjari Bansal
With asymmetrical hearing loss, the ears are not matched in terms of hearing ability. Find out more about asymmetrical hearing loss and solutions that can help.

If you have hearing loss but one ear is more affected than the other, you might have asymmetrical hearing loss. Comprehensive hearing evaluation and other diagnostics will typically help determine the right treatment strategy. Learn what experts have to say about asymmetrical hearing loss, its diagnosis, and the treatment options available.

Asymmetrical Hearing Loss

An audiogram, which is a graph depicting an individual’s hearing abilities, is one of the standard ways to measure hearing loss. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), audiologists evaluate the shape of an audiogram in order to understand the configuration of each patient’s specific form of hearing loss

ASHA notes that asymmetrical hearing loss is when the ears differ in terms of both hearing loss severity and audiogram shape. 

“Asymmetrical hearing loss is when there is a difference in hearing between the right and left ear greater than 15 decibels,” Rhee Nesson, AuD, founder of Hearing Doctors of New Jersey, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“To diagnose an asymmetrical hearing loss, a comprehensive hearing test, including a thorough case history, needs to be completed by an audiologist. Most often, when an asymmetrical hearing loss is present, further testing, like an MRI, is needed to identify why there is a difference in hearing between ears,” Nesson adds.

So, what is clinically-significant hearing asymmetric hearing loss? “While some small asymmetries in hearing loss are normal, significant asymmetries worry us,” Stelios Dokianakis, AuD, an audiologist and owner of Holland Doctors of Audiology in Michigan, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“Unless we can explain the difference between ears and attribute it to a specific event (e.g., noise trauma, physical injury, past pathology, etc.) the asymmetry should be investigated. In rare cases, asymmetric hearing loss comes from serious problems like small tumors exerting pressure on the hearing nerve requiring medical attention,” Dokianakis explains.

Treatment of asymmetrical hearing loss will depend on the cause, severity, and type of hearing loss in each ear. Nesson tells WebMD Connect to Care that if a hearing test shows that amplification would help, a hearing aid is the recommended option.

“In extreme cases when amplification is not appropriate (e.g., when word understanding is really poor or when there is no usable hearing in one ear), the option of sending sound from that side to the other ear helps patients hear better. This can be done non-surgically with small wireless CROS (contralateral routing of signals) hearing devices or surgically with a BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid) device implanted behind the "bad" ear that sends the sound to the other side by bone transmission,” Dokianakis says.

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed And Treated.

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.