Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so enjoyable.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit worried!
Also, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, here’s why
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 outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- It’s challenging to hear in noisy places: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have difficulty discerning volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- Your brain becomes tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make a lot of activities throughout your daily life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes should be considered.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common reactions to an infection is to swell up. 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.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched problem.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely evident. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be really painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery could be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based obstruction, 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:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by making use of your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is designed exclusively for people with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
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 well-being and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.