Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s enjoyable, although 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 if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that case. Something else must be going on. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Also, your overall hearing might not be working right. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
In general, your ears work together. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:
- Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes really hard to hear: Loud places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible causes should be considered.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult 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. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
- 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 reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, impede your ability to hear.
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a worse and more entrenched problem.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing loss. 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 complicated and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.
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