Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend all night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up the next morning. (That part’s not so fun.)
But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else must be happening. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit alarmed!
Moreover, your general hearing might not be working right. 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 issues
Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s difficult to hear in noisy places: Loud places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only 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 trouble detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain gets exhausted: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Standard everyday activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be assessed.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really evident. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst 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 really painful, and usually triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it usually is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. 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 possible hearing aid solutions:
- 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 conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to manage single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your impacted 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
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.