Likely Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

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Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

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

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that case. Something else must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a little alarmed!

Moreover, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual acuity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: Someone yells your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one working ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. Standard daily tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.

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 impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible causes should be considered.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this type of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this swelling can block your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will vary. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be removed by basic instruments.

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

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by using your bones to convey sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely made hearing aid is primarily made to manage single-sided hearing impairment. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be ignored. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!

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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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