Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend all night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else must be happening. And you might be a little concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to sorting out 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
Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Here are some of the most prominent:
- Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody yells 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.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely hard to hear: With only one working ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. 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 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 scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows 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 talk to your provider about.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be quite painful, and usually leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. 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, treatments will differ. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal naturally. And still others, including an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.
In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss might 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 using your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is received at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very reliable.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.