by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady recently wrote:
My sister, who is 75 years old, woke up one morning with her hearing in her left ear completely gone. Now she says being in a crowd makes her very nervous and anxious as she can’t tell which way the voice is coming from when people talk to her. Do you have any suggestions I can give her for more help?
When you can only hear in one ear, you totally lose your stereo hearing which enables you to tell from which direction sounds are coming. Thus, you need to learn how to compensate for this loss.
One way is to use your eyes more. Don’t just rely on your ears. Become more aware of you surroundings though your eyes.
Also, use logic, where possible, to determine from which direction sounds are coming. For example, if you are walking on a sidewalk and hears a car horn honking, you can be almost certain it is on the road side, not the building side of you. Thus, you look in the roadside direction first. Likewise, if you hear kids screaming as your are walking past a playground, the sounds you are hearing very likely are coming from the playground, not the other side of the street.
In other words, learn to anticipate from which direction specific sounds will likely be coming, and look in that direction first.
When surrounded by people, it is very difficult to know who is talking. However, logic still prevails. Say you are in a line at the grocery checkout counter. If you hear a person talking to you, it is likely either the person in front of you or the person behind you. Since normally the person in front would turn to face you before talking, if that isn’t the case, you can assume it is the person behind you doing the talking, and thus, you should turn that way first.
Another tip to use when around people is to have them identify where they are when speaking to you. For example, say you come home and call out as usual, “Honey, I’m home.” If your spouse calls back, “I’m in here,” this doesn’t help you at all. A person with normal hearing could tell from the direction of the voice where they are. Not so when you only have one ear. So you need to tell your spouse to say where they are when they answer. For example, “I’m in the kitchen.” or “I’m in the bedroom.” so you know where to go.
Here is a cool trick if for when you are riding in a car, bus, train or plane. You don’t want people talking to your deaf side, so preclude this by sitting with your deaf side to the window. That way anyone sitting beside you is automatically sitting on your hearing side. This makes conversations ever so much easier.
This same trick can be adapted to various other listening situations at home, church or other meetings. For example, in church or meetings, always sit with your deaf ear towards the wall. For example, if your left ear is deaf, sit on the left side of the room. That way anyone speaking from the audience has to be speaking towards your good ear.
In addition to doing all of the above, you could try a special kind of hearing aid called a CROS aid. CROS aids come in two parts. You wear what looks like a hearing aid in each ear. The hearing aid on the deaf side picks up the sound from that side and automatically transmits it to the hearing aid on the good side where it is fed into your good ear. The ear mold on the good side is loose fitting so normal sounds from that side are not obstructed.
With a CROS aid, you will be able to hear people talking to you from both sides. Some people love their CROS aids. Others don’t. So you have to try them out and see for yourself how they work for you. Unfortunately, CROS aids still doesn’t let you hear true stereo, so you still have trouble telling the direction from which sound is coming, but at least you no longer have a deaf side.
These are a few of the tricks you can employ to help yourself successfully deal with single-sided hearing loss.