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 both ears ringing. (That’s not so fun.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little worried!

Also, your general hearing may not be working properly. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual sharpness, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s hard to hear in loud places: With only one working ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have trouble discerning volume: 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 determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make a lot of tasks during your daily life more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the situation, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely evident. It can be due to 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 separates your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be really painful, and typically causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

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

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be removed by simple instruments.

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

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially created hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.

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