Hearing Loss in One Ear – Potential Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, so you spend all night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less enjoyable.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else could be at work. And you might be a little concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

What’s more, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. 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 stops working properly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: Someone calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: 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 gets tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

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

Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • 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 on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • 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. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.

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

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally 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 cases, might be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially made hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by using your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t 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 schedule a visit with us today, so you can start 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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