Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend all night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so fun.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else could be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a little alarmed!

Moreover, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Normally, 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 causes issues

In general, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prevalent effects are the following:

  • Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody 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 difficult to hear: Loud places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: In the same way as 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: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make a lot of tasks during your day-to-day life more exhausting.

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. While the more typical 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 causes.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • 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. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really obvious. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition known as 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 along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal on their own. Other issues like excessive earwax can be easily removed.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

There’s probably 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 wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230949/
https://www.hear-it.org/single-sided-deafness

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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