With so many high-tech hearing aid systems and surgeries available for managing patients with single-sided deafness (SSD), it’s easy to lose track of the human element when crafting an intervention strategy. “Certainly, take advantage of the technology, but also remember that there is a person in a psychosocial environment who is struggling with SSD,” said Dr. Baguley.
Explore this issue:January 2014
That holistic approach is Dr. Baguley’s preferred method for treating the 120 or so patients he sees each year with SSD and other forms of unilateral hearing loss. And it is a strategy that he says is rapidly gaining adherents. “We do a lot of teaching on this point, to make sure that our audiologist and otologist colleagues are equipped with knowledge about these psychosocial factors,” he said.
A common neglected strategy, he noted, is to counsel patients to advocate for themselves and ask for environmental aids in their work setting. Patients who have been fitted with a hearing aid, for example, can ask that a loop device be installed in a conference room. These environmental amplification systems can make a huge positive impact in an SSD patient’s ability to hear a colleague who is speaking on his or her deaf-ear side.
“This is a good example of where psychosocial counseling, preferably with the help of a mental health professional on your care team, coupled with technology, can help patients take a more active role in their recovery,” Dr. Baguley said. “It’s also crucial that the patient’s immediate family understand the impact of SSD: They look and sound the same, but a person with acquired SSD needs support to relearn how to function in family and professional environments.”