Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (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 most likely not to blame in that case. Something else could be at work. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Also, your general hearing may not be working properly. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems

In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes really difficult to hear: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • Your brain becomes tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

Hearing professionals call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible causes need to be considered.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the chronic 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. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a worse and more entrenched problem.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound kind of 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.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses 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 cause inflammation.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.
  • 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 certain way, interfere with your ability to hear.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the root cause. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by basic instruments.

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

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate 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 completely.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely made hearing aid is specifically made to manage single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complex, very cool, and very effective.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. It’s not something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.

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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.

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