Hearing Loss in One Ear – Possible Causes

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 entire rock concert last night. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That part’s less fun.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the culprit. Something else could be at work. And you might be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Also, your general hearing might not be working right. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, here’s why

Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Amongst the most prominent effects are the following:

  • Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing disappears 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 really difficult to hear: Noisy settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. basic daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

Hearing professionals call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely evident. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it occurs when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be rather painful, and usually causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the situation, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound rather frightening, 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.

So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the root cause. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.

In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially designed hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. With this hearing aid, sound is received at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!



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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