Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

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

But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit alarmed!

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, here’s why

In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: 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.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make a lot of tasks during your daily life more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping 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 on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery might be the best choice for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be removed by simple instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely designed hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids use your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be ignored. It’s important, both for your well-being and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can begin 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.