Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

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

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else must be happening. And you may be a little worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

In addition, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prevalent effects are the following:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Somebody calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. 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 location, you kind of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain becomes tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

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

Hearing specialists call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.

Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:

  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very obvious. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. 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 might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal naturally. Other problems such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially created hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to convey sound to the brain.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It’s not something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.

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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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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