Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend all night in the front row. It’s not 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 happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a bit concerned!
In addition, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues
Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: Somebody calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s challenging to hear in noisy places: With only one functioning ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems 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 this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain gets exhausted: 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 just one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make all kinds of tasks during your daily life 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 muffled on one side. While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, 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, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really evident. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery could be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily removed.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely made hearing aid is specifically made to address 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 decoded by your brain. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by using your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.