June 23, 2024
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Asymmetric Hearing Loss: Causes and Treatment Options

At the most recent Triological Society Meeting in San Diego, California, some very important updates were discussed, and our current practices and treatments were also reaffirmed. When a patient goes to an audiologist and is diagnosed with asymmetric hearing loss (hearing that is different on one side vs the other) a hearing aid may be the best treatment when other issues are ruled out. After a thorough exam and perhaps an imaging study, we normally clear patients for their hearing aids.

Although fewer than 1% of patients are diagnosed with a serious issue after this testing at NJ Eye and Ear, some series show that up to 5% of newly diagnosed patients with significant asymmetric hearing loss of the nerve actually had brain tumors. Although these brain tumors are typically not malignant and do not spread, they do continue to grow and cause issues locally. These issues may start with hearing loss, but often progress to other major problems such as facial nerve weakness and other pressure related issues on the brain.

Aside from brain tumors, we often find other things that are not just your run of the mill age-related hearing loss. Sometimes a stroke that you knew about or perhaps didn’t know about could have caused your hearing loss. There are other findings like ischemia which can lead to a stroke that might show up on an MRI scan. If this is found and treated, you may be able to prevent a stroke, or further strokes if you have already had one, by starting medications. Something as simple as hearing loss could be an early indicator that you have had a stroke even when no other symptoms are present. Other disease processes that have presented to NJ Eye and Ear as simple hearing loss include Multiple Sclerosis, other brain tumors, and other brain demyelinating diseases, which allowed for early detection and treatment.

For patients who have only slight asymmetry, we will likely recommend a hearing aid but will follow you closely with further hearing exams to make sure the hearing asymmetry does not increase. Asymmetric hearing loss has different treatment options than symmetrical hearing loss. Both surgical and nonsurgical options exist depending on what specific issue is found with your ears.

At NJ Eye and Ear, we do sell state of the art custom fit by 3D model hearing aids. On the other hand, a hearing aid is not always the best solution or the only answer. If your hearing is different on one side vs. the other, you should make an appointment at NJ Eye and Ear. We will perform a complete exam and complete hearing test and explain to you whether a hearing aid is your best option or if you need further testing.

Dr. Yonah Orlofsky is director of audiology at NJ Eye and Ear.


Dr. Kevin Ende is the director of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery (ENT), facial plastic surgery and hair restoration at NJ Eye and Ear. Visit them at www.njeyeandear.com 

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