Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That part’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else must be happening. And you might be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Among the most prominent effects are the following:
- You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: 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 challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in loud locations: With only one working ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
- You tire your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of activities during your daily life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.
Some of the most common 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 usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, impede your ability to hear.
- 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 inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be due 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 gets a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain are the outcomes.
So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal on their own. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily removed.
In some circumstances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is designed specifically for people with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It’s not 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 a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!