Unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear)

Image shows man with unilateral hearing loss

What is unilateral hearing loss?

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) is when a person experiences normal hearing in one ear and hearing loss in the other ear. In contrast, bilateral hearing loss is when hearing loss is experienced in both ears.

Unilateral hearing loss, sometimes referred to as single-sided deafness (SSD) or deafness in one ear, is a form of hearing loss that affects millions of people all around the world.

Would a FREE* hearing check be relevant for you?

Illustration shows unilateral hearing loss
Image shows woman during hearing test

Book a FREE* hearing check for unilateral hearing loss

Book a FREE* hearing check to find out if you have unilateral hearing loss (or any other type of hearing loss). We can suggest treatment options and help you understand your condition better.
Are you older than 55?

Step 1 of 5

Icon of doctor
No referral
needed from GP or ENT
icon of group of people
Helped over
30,000 New Zealander's

Symptoms of unilateral hearing loss

Image shows lady keeping hand close to her ear
Inability to follow conversations from the ear with hearing impairment
Image shows group conversations
Inability to understand speech and conversations amidst background noise
Image shows woman being sad
Inability to localize which direction sounds are coming from
Find a hearing care expert in your area

Causes of hearing loss in one ear

There are a number of recognized causes of unilateral hearing loss, including:

  • Mastoiditis
  • Mumps
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Ménière's disease
  • Meningitis
  • Microtia
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Measles
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Physical trauma

Age-related hearing loss (Presbycusis) 

Treatment for hearing loss in one ear

There are many effective treatment options for unilateral hearing loss available, although the results of treatment depend on a broad range of factors and circumstances.

Typical treatments include:

  • Hearing aids
  • Bone anchored hearing systems
  • Cochlear implants

Book a FREE* hearing check to learn about your hearing needs and discuss potential treatment options with a hearing care expert.

Book FREE* hearing check Hearing loss treatment

Conductive vs. sensorineural unilateral hearing loss

Unilateral conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds cannot pass freely through the eardrum or past the tiny bones, known as ossicles, in the middle ear. This is due to a breakdown in the effectiveness of sound waves being sent from the outer ear.
Conductive hearing loss

Unilateral sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, occurs when there is damage to the hair cells in the cochlea (found in the inner ear) or to the nerve pathways which lead from the inner ear to the brain. A person may also suffer from mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss