Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as fun.)

But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that case. Something else must be happening. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little alarmed!

In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. 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 results in problems

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely obvious. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. The result can be quite painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be removed by simple instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for people with single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s detected by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids utilize your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.

It all starts 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 dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. 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.