Single-sided deafness (SSD) does not affect only your hearing, but it can result in a difficulty understanding speech and other cognitive issues. It is something you may want to look into before the condition becomes permanent. Currently, Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) hearing aids are the only treatment for single-sided deafness, but they are not as effective as they should be. However, scientists may have discovered a way to treat people suffering from SSD.

Symptoms and Treatment of Single-Sided Deafness

Around 60,000 people in the United States are affected by single-sided deafness. Physical trauma, microtia, meningitis, Waardenburg synodrome, acoustic neuroma and many other viral infections and brain tumors are known causes of the condition.

Unfortunately, patients have to deal with quite a few debilitating symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty hearing,
  • Trouble filtering out background noise,
  • Struggle determining sound direction,
  • Understanding speech,
  • Irritability,
  • Interpersonal communication difficulties,
  • Frequent headaches, and
  • Stress.

A New Discovery in Brain Plasticity

Finding the best treatment for single-sided deafness has been a challenging task for scientists. The hardest part is measuring how effective the treatment is in resolving the disorder. However, researchers who conducted a new study at the University of California believe they have found a lead to a cure.

Researchers learned more about brain plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to modify its own structure when encountering changes within the body. This information can help scientists figure out how the brain works, how to proceed using this knowledge to overcome injures, and how to make devices, like hearing aids, more effective.

Scientists tested 26 subjects, including 13 people with SSD, and 13 with normal hearing. Using magnetoencephalographic imaging (MEGI), as well as fMRI scans, researchers were able to observe changes in the brain – specifically within the subjects’ auditory cortices. They discovered that when the patients were exposed to sound at different frequencies, the neurons in the brain activated across both hemispheres.

However, for the patients with SSD, the spread of neuron activation was more prominent in one hemisphere, but much less in the other. The other group of patients with normal hearing showed a symmetrical display within both hemispheres of the brain.

Scientists hope that these results will help them create biomarkers, which will allow them to measure the efficiency of future treatment options. They also believe that potential therapies using brain stimulation may be able to restore hearing and cure SSD.