Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend all night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)
But what happens 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 must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit concerned!
Also, your general hearing may not be working right. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, here’s why
Your ears generally 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 stops working properly, havoc can happen. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody yells your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have difficulty detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of activities during your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
“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”, typically isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible causes should be considered.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- 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 on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the situation, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among 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 lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids use your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for people who have 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 complex and very cool.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!