Saturday, June 30, 2012

Single-Sided Deafness

I have had little to no hearing in my right ear since my early twenties.
Originally, I was told that only surgery could correct the problem, but there were risks to that solution:  I could be left with no hearing at all.  Eventually, I was fitted with a hearing aid about ten years ago, which I recently discovered does not really provide me with much hearing at all.
My lack of hearing in my right ear results from having a rigid stapes bone, caused from otosclerosis, as well as inner ear nerve damage.
With otosclerosis the stapes bone follows an abnormal growth pattern which can spread to the opening of the cochlea. This affects the amount of sound waves being transmitted to the cochlea. A reduction in sound waves means a reduction in hearing.
The less flexible the stapes the greater the degree of hearing loss. Eventually the stapes becomes completely fixed which results in severe hearing loss.  This type of hearing impairment is called conductive hearing loss.
Sound is usually passed freely through the ear due to the plasticity of the individual components. But this unchecked growth around the stapes causes it to lose its flexibility and become rigid which then disrupts normal hearing.
This growth is usually confined to the stapes but in some situations it can spread to the cochlea and affect the nerve cells within. If this occurs then the transmission of signals to the brain will be affected which also affects the hearing.  This is a different type of hearing problem called sensorineural hearing loss, which is the type of hearing loss I have in my right ear.
Otosclerosis can affect one ear but it usually affects both.  In my case, it only affects my right ear, leaving me with what is known as single-sided deafness.  (I also have hearing loss in my left ear, but only mildly so.)
The extent of my single-sided deafness was certainly demonstrated during our recent vacation when I developed an infection in my left ear.  A wick was inserted to act as a conduit for the antibiotics, and it served as a very effective plug too.  (So I'm wearing a hearing aid in my right ear, why?)
The other day, I came across a blog by Ray Gillies-Jones ( in which he described what it's like to live with single sided deafness.  While his experience is a bit extreme, he certainly captures the essence of much of what I deal with on a daily basis because of the lack of hearing in my right ear.

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