Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It’s fun, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get 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 most likely not to blame in that case. Something else must be going on. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a little worried!
In addition, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems
In general, your ears work together. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- You can have trouble distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have trouble discerning volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- You tire your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make a lot of activities during your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
Hearing professionals call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate solution. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely made 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 very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to convey sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.