Losing hearing in one ear can be more debilitating than many people imagine. Single-sided deafness can significantly reduce sound localization, creating confusion as to where a sound is coming from. People with single-sided deafness also have greater difficulty understanding speech, especially when someone speaks on their deaf side. Many people with single-sided deafness also experience severe tinnitus. There is also the sense of “not being whole” when listening with only one ear. All of these difficulties can add to a reduced quality of life, greater difficulty in communication, and increased isolation, despite having one perfectly functioning ear.
Studies in Europe over the last ten years have shown that cochlear implants can restore hearing in the deaf ear for patients with single-sided deafness. These studies also showed improved localization, better speech understanding, significantly reduced tinnitus severity, and improved quality of life. While cochlear implants were approved for patients with single-sided deafness in Europe (primarily to reduce tinnitus), they were not indicated for patients in the USA. However, in collaboration with researchers at USC and UCLA, the House Institute recently participated in an FDA clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cochlear implants for patients with single-sided deafness in the USA.
Patients with single-sided deafness were implanted with a MED-EL cochlear implant device by Eric Wilkinson, MD, of the House Ear Clinic. These patients were evaluated before implantation, and again at one, three, and six months after implantation. After six months of cochlear implant use, substantial improvements were observed for localization, speech understanding, and quality of life. Tinnitus severity was greatly reduced when the cochlear implant was turned on. Much work remains to balance the electric hearing of the cochlear implant with the acoustic hearing in the other ear. John Galvin, PhD, in collaboration with Eric Wilkinson, MD, Dawna Mills, AuD, Jordan Rock, AuD, and Qian-jie Fu, PhD, are currently researching how to best make acoustic and electric hearing work together. Your continued funding of HIF allows our researchers to continue this important work. Give online at www.hei.org/donate
Galvin, J. J., Fu, Q. J., Wilkinson, E. P., Mills, D., Hagan, S. C., Lupo, J. E., Padilla, M., & Shannon, R. V. (2019). Benefits of cochlear implantation for single-sided deafness: Data from the House Clinic-University of Southern California-University of California, Los Angeles Clinical Trial. Ear Hear, 40(4): 766-781. https://doi.org/10.1097/AUD.0000000000000671