Learn the causes & symptoms of bilateral hearing loss and available treatments.
Millions of people live with hearing loss—but each case is unique. For some people, it only happens in one ear, but when there’s a loss of hearing in both ears, that’s called “bilateral” hearing loss. Learn about the unique attributes and concerns associated with bilateral hearing loss, as well as how it is diagnosed and treated.
Simply put, bilateral hearing loss is hearing loss that occurs in both ears, as opposed to hearing loss that happens in one ear (unilateral hearing loss). It’s a condition that affects people of all ages and can have different sources and characteristics. If you think you or a friend or family member might have bilateral hearing loss, it’s important to get a hearing test done with a professional as soon as possible. Treating hearing loss early can have numerous positive effects on both mental and physical health.
The characteristic symptom is having difficulty hearing. You might perceive sounds as muffled, think that people are mumbling, or miss some sounds altogether (often those at higher frequencies). Asking people to repeat themselves often and turning up the volume on the TV louder than usual are good indications that you need to have your hearing checked.
Bilateral hearing loss can occur in different combinations of types (sensorineural, conductive or mixed) and degrees (mild, moderate, severe or profound). A hearing care professional will be able to determine the type of loss you have during a hearing exam.
Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss causes can vary widely. It might be linked to your genetics, work or hobbies, illness or injury, or even certain medications you take.
Hearing loss that meets specific criteria is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To qualify for benefits, the average hearing treshold in the better ear needs to be 90 decibels or higher, as demonstrated by an air conduction test. In the better ear, the hearing threshold needs to be 60 decibels or higher, as demonstrated by a bone conduction test. Additionally, your word recognition score in the better ear needs to be 40% or lower.
You will need a professional hearing test and diagnosis to confirm the criteria for your specific benefit program.
To diagnose bilateral hearing loss, you need to have your hearing tested. You can start with an online test, but a full diagnosis that explains the scope of your hearing loss can only be done by a professional.
One of the tests you’ll do is called pure-tone audiometry, also known as air conduction testing, which measures your hearing sensitivity. During this test, you will hear sounds at various pitches and frequencies and be asked to respond when you hear those sounds.
Your hearing care professional will also perform a bone conduction test, using a small device to send gentle vibrations (tones) through your skull to your inner ear. This test will help to determine if there are any issues in your outer or middle ear.
During a speech audiometry test, your hearing care professional will measure your speed reception threshold (SRT) which is the lowest sound level you can hear speech, perform a speech discrimination test, which is the ability to discriminate between different sounds of speech, and conduct speech-in-noise testing.
The different components of speech audiometry measure how loud speech must be for you to hear it, how you are able to understand speech at a normal listening level and your ability to hear sounds in background noise.
This is dependent on the type of bilateral hearing loss you have. Generally, conductive hearing loss can be treated with either medication or surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss typically requires the use of hearing aids, which, when utilized, can often improve your quality of life.
If you’re diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss, there’s some good news: There are more—and better—options for treating your hearing loss today than ever before. While statistics show that most people wait seven to 10 years to treat hearing loss, getting started early benefits your hearing health and mental and overall physical health, too.
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that uses electrodes implanted in the cochlea of the inner ear. The implant directly stimulates the auditory nerve, overriding damage that has led to hearing loss. Cochlear implants are for people with severe to profound hearing loss and who do not benefit from standard hearing aids. Following the surgical placement of the implant, you will need to go through therapy to learn or remaster your sense of hearing.
If you have bilateral hearing loss, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Millions of Americans and people worldwide have it, and researchers are constantly working to improve treatment options with ever-smarter technology. Getting treated and improving your hearing is a life-changing decision that will affect your health for years to come and even strengthen your relationships. Get started with a hearing test and a consultation with a hearing expert at Miracle-Ear.