Adoption, Medical Issues

All About Single-Sided Deafness

All About Single-Sided Deafness

All About Single-Sided Deafness

Here is the info All About Single-Sided Deafness. According to Healthy Hearing, Single-Sided Deafness is “Living in the head shadow of singlesided deafness. …Singlesided deafness (SSD) is a condition in which a person has lost hearing in one ear, while he or she may have anywhere from normal hearing to profound hearing loss in the other.”

A Small Familiarity

This is something that I have grown up with but never really understood. As you discuss it more, you find out that more people have hearing loss or are completely deaf in one ear. They have just learned to deal with it throughout their lives. Keep on reading from my “blonde” moment regarding my slight familiarity.

Bringing J Home

We met our child when he was 4. In our adoption journey, we flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and met this sweet child. It was love at first sight. There was, of course, a huge language barrier. He spoke the native language, Wolayita. Also, he was learning Amharic (the native language of most of Ethiopia). As a bonus, this teacher was teaching the kids in English.

We were in such a fog of the information overload we were experiencing that we didn’t notice much else. Our child was a typical 4 yr old child. Busy, opinionated, hungry, loving, affectionate, and full of smiles.

Fast Forward 2 Years Later

It was this child’s 6th birthday. Per tradition, my mom called to sing to him. He flew upstairs to talk to Jojo. I put the phone up to the right ear. He looked at me and said: “I no hear in that ear.” I must have just looked like I had swallowed a bug because my mouth was open, and I suddenly could not comprehend broken English.

He moved the phone to the left ear and smiled as she sang to him. I took the phone back and told my mom what he had said. We discussed it for a minute, and she told me that I needed to do more investigation. She asked if I remembered her surgery on her ear. I did remember, but I never knew what it was, so she explained it all to me again.

Our Conversation

Me: What do you mean you cannot hear in that ear?

Child: I can’t hear out of that ear.

Me: But what do you mean? Could you hear in Ethiopia?

Child: I no hear in Et-opia.

Me: I don’t understand what you are saying.

Child: Put both of this child’s hands on my cheeks and brought my face closer to this child’s face, and he spoke slowly. Mom. I. No. Hear. In. That. Ear.

Then he casually walked away.

Over the Course of the Day

I would sneak up on him and try to whisper in this child’s ear to catch the “deafness.” Seriously, I had no idea what SSD was. I started making phone calls. We got a hearing test done with my friend Susan Brown at Murray State.

She confirmed that he was deaf in one ear, but we needed a referral to see the extent of that. We took her results and gave them to our pediatrician (who said this child’s ears were perfectly healthy and fine). I insisted on a referral to Dr. Shawn Jones, and they did that for me, though they didn’t think it was necessary.

Seeing Dr. Jones

We introduced J to the Indiana Jones movies. He was obsessed. He had the bag, hat, and whip to prove his devotion to this character. As I tried to explain to him where we were going and what the dr was going to do, I failed to mention the name of the dr. When we walked into the clinic, I told him we would see Dr. Jones soon.

Our child’s eyes were wide, and the mouth dropped. He looked at me and said: “Dr. Jones?!” Me: “Yep, you are seeing Dr. Jones today.” Child: “As in Indian Jones??!!” Me: “Uhm, no. As in. Dr. Shawn Jones.” Our child was deflated.

Our Appointment

Now, Dr. Jones and I have gone way back. He has done tube surgeries on a couple of kids and taken my tonsils out. We know each other. He is a believer, his wife is a homeschooler, and he loves to challenge and relate to each kid/person that walks into his clinic.

We giggled over J’s mistaken identity moment a few moments earlier. Then, I went on to talk about this child’s medical history (we pretty much knew nothing). I told him what Susan had said. Also, the pediatrician thought he was fine, and it was more of a selective hearing loss (aka, he is a kid).

What We Learned

We learned that you could be deaf from your outer ear to your inner ear OR from your inner ear to your brain. It is not quite as common to be deaf from your outer ear to your inner. When Dr. Jones looked into this child’s ear, he found that everything was as it should be. Nothing was missing; all bones were intact, so that is good.

He sent us to Kelli, who did another hearing test. This time, she covered her mouth as she spoke to him. That was the key. He could read lips perfectly! That is why the pediatrician thought he was fine. He had become an expert at it.

The Results Were In

When all the tests were done, we discovered that he is NOT slightly or even moderately deaf in that right ear. He is entirely, profoundly deaf from the outer ear to the brain. Although mechanically, everything is fine, he is a sonic boom type of deaf. Deaf deaf. They were so surprised that this child’s speech was so good. That at one point, he was trilingual. He had learned to compensate so well that he surprised everyone.

We Had Choices

First, we could leave it alone and let it be. Second, we could get cross hearing aids to magnify the sound in the good ear. Third, we could be the first in our region to get a magnetic BAHA hearing aid.

The cross hearing aids did not work at all. It is designed to have two hearing aids. The one in the bad ear takes the noises and slings them to the hearing aid in the good ear. Once there, it magnifies it and makes things louder. Yep, that didn’t work at all. Plus, they could not get wet. Also, he couldn’t get sweat on them. He was in sports, so he never wore them. When he did, it just irritated him.

The BAHA hearing aid can be better explained by the company we used, Sophono. There is the snap-on hearing aid, which most people get. The magnetic one was newer when we started this process. This device helped take out the maintenance of the abutment device.

What We Decided

We would leave it alone, but as he got older, we noticed more things. This child’s deafness started becoming more noticeable (or maybe we were more aware). He was still unfamiliar with life in the states, so he often darted wherever and whenever. He was in a walled area in Ethiopia, so he had freedom without fear. Here, he could very quickly get hit by a car. He often ran across the street to get a ball or see a dog.

After trying the first two less invasive options, we chose to do the BAHA. He can wear it in the rain, and he can sweat! It is rechargeable, so it removes the need to buy batteries constantly. He can do it all alone, a vast difference from the cros hearing aides.


As this child gets older, the magnetic will never need changing/replacing. He cannot have MRIs or go through metal detectors. This child’s hearing aid does not need to be replaced unless broken. We get yearly maintenance on it.

He picks and chooses when he wears it. I don’t push it. We have learned he does not like wearing it while eating (he chews too loudly) and also during worship time at church (too loud). I let him dictate when he wears it and when he doesn’t. Now, when school starts, he will have to wear it.

Alright, Alright…Here is My Moment

This is the conversation that Dr. Jones and I had while discussing J’s medical history.

Me: Can SSD be hereditary?

Dr. J: Sometimes, why do you ask?

Me: My mom was born without a bone in her ear. She was deaf on one side. She got some surgery where they put a metal plate in her ear. It bounces sound off, and now she can hear. I remember when she got it. She was sleeping in her room with the door shut. The rest of us were in the kitchen eating sandwiches. She came flying into the kitchen, crying, telling us to stop chewing loudly. Could J be missing that same bone?

Dr. J (and his nurse): Staring at me like I had a third eyeball.

Me: If this child is missing that bone, can he pass that on to biological kids? Is this a generational thing?

Crickets chirping

After a moment of silence and Dr. J continuing to let me babble on…

Dr. J: “Brandi, is your mom black?”

Me: Uhm, no…you have met her. She is a short, fiery redhead. Why?

Dr. J: Brandi, your son is black.

Me: Yep, I know that.

Moment to let me absorb his question and my answer.

Dr. J: Bursts out laughing, as does his nurse.

Me: Realizing what I just asked. Oh, well, I feel stupid.

Dr. J: You don’t distinguish between your bio and adopted kids. To answer your question, I don’t think your American mom’s ear has anything to do with your Ethiopian son’s hearing loss.




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