Likely Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear


Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as enjoyable.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little concerned!

Moreover, your general hearing may not be working right. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to 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 prominent:

  • You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate 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 loud setting it becomes really difficult to hear: Loud settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You tire your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound range from only 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. Standard everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more common kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to look at other possible factors.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
  • 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. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be rather painful, and normally causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to manage single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids make use of your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. 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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