Because you’re so cool, you rocked out in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That part’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that case. Something else must be happening. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little concerned!
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, here’s why
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can result. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, loud settings like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have trouble discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound range from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing specialists call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more typical type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to look at other possible factors.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If you have earwax blocking your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. 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 gets a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal solution. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique kind of hearing aid is designed specifically for people with 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 effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.