Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That’s not so fun.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little worried!

Moreover, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prevalent:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s exceptionally hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • It’s hard to hear in noisy locations: Noisy settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. Standard daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes should be assessed.

Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:

  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched problem.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be quite painful, and typically triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the root cause. Surgery could be the best choice for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal on their own. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid solutions:

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially made hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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