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Unilateral hearing loss

What is unilateral hearing loss?

This is when the hearing in one ear is normal but the hearing in the other ear is not.

How will this affect my child?

The good news is that most children with this sort of hearing loss manage very well. Speech and language usually develop in the normal way.

Who can help?

The Sheffield Service for Hearing Impaired Children (SHIC) can provide help and support for children of all ages who have a hearing loss.

If your child is not in school yet, a specialist teacher can visit you and your child at home to give advice. They can also arrange to see children in nursery school if this is helpful. They can give written or spoken reports.

Any child who is in school can be visited by a specialist teacher. They can watch your child in the classroom and speak to their class or subject teacher to find out whether the hearing loss is affecting school work in any way.

If your child does seem to be having a problem they can suggest ways to help. After a school visit they can write a report for the consultant in audiology.

What difficulties might my child have?

Children with unilateral hearing loss normally copes very well and naturally learn to make the best use of their good ear.

However it is possible that they could have difficulty with the following:

  • hearing faint or distant speech
  • knowing where sounds are coming from (they will always appear to come from the better hearing side)
  • hearing people when their good ear is facing away from someone
  • hearing people when there is a lot of background noise

How can they make the best use of their hearing?

A teacher from the SHIC Service will be able to help and support your child in school.

They might suggest that your child:

  • sits in class so that the better ear is toward the teacher
  • moves for group work when possible so they can hear everyone
  • sits with a clear view of the teachers face
  • sit with the poor ear towards a wall and the good ear towards the class when possible

The support staff from SHIC will also advise class teachers on ways of helping your child in school.

Why do we have to keep coming back to the hospital for more hearing tests?

It is important that your child’s hearing is checked on a regular basis so that we can make sure that the better ear stays good.

Glue ear is a common childhood condition that could cause the hearing in the good ear to be temporarily poor. Your child will be referred to a specialist if this, or any other condition, is causing a loss of hearing in the better ear.


If you or your child notices a change in hearing levels between visits please phone us to arrange an appointment.

Can my child have a hearing aid to improve their hearing?

It is possible that a hearing aid might be helpful.

The type of aid that would be suitable will depend on the level of hearing in the poorer ear. Please speak to the audiologist or doctor next time you are in the department and the options will be explained. Hearing aids can usually be offered on a trial basis.

How can my child protect the good hearing that they have?

  • Listening to loud sounds over a period of time can damage hearing. It is particularly important for your child to know this and not risk damage to the hearing in the better ear.
  • Encourage careful use of earphones – generally if other people can hear your music it is dangerously loud for you.
  • Always follow health and safety guidelines when it is suggested to use ear protectors.
  • Avoid exposing your child to cigarette smoke as this can cause glue ear.

Contact us

If you have any concerns or questions, please ring 0114 271 7450.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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United Kingdom

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