Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That part’s less fun.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else must be going on. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Also, your general hearing may not be working right. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.

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

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: Someone yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have difficulty discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it this way: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
  • You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. Normal everyday tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what causes 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 typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be assessed.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched problem.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon 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.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very evident. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be quite painful, and usually leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.

So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. Surgery might be the best choice for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other issues like excessive earwax can be easily removed.

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

  • 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 completely.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is designed exclusively for those who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. 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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