Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children: Past, Present, and Future

Dr Anne-Marie Tharpe

For decades, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, teachers, early interventionists, and parents have puzzled over the impact of unilateral hearing loss on children.  After all, one might assume that one normal hearing ear ought to be sufficient for hearing speech and sounds in the environment.  Nonetheless, a growing body of evidence confirms that, on average, children with unilateral hearing loss have more academic, speech and language, and social-behavioural difficulties than their normal hearing peers.

This presentation will review what we know and what we do not yet know about children with unilateral hearing loss.  Specifically, several theories for why these children experience difficulties will be explored and current best practices for management will be addressed. Management is considered in terms of interdisciplinary partnerships that include the child’s parents or caregivers. Tools intended to enhance such partnerships will be described and research designed to inform our future management directions with these children will be discussed.


Dr. Anne Marie Tharpe is Professor and Chair, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville Tennessee. The primary research emphasis in her laboratory has been in furthering our understanding of the developmental impact of hearing loss on young children. This work has been done by examining questions of behavioral indices of attention, environmental exploration, and academic outcomes. More recently, work has focused on the impact of hearing technology interventions and the sleep patterns in those with hearing loss. Dr. Tharpe has published extensively in national and international professional journals, has published numerous books and book chapters, and has presented to over 250 audiences around the world on pediatric audiology issues. She is co-editor with Dr. Richard Seewald of The Comprehensive Handbook of Pediatric Audiology, 2nd edition, which was published in 2016.