Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so fun.)
But what 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 when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little worried!
Also, your general hearing might not be working properly. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Amongst the most prevalent impacts are the following:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody yells your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s exceptionally difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- It’s difficult to hear in noisy places: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming 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 compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
“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 isn’t. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain result.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound rather intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you have earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best choice for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by basic instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially designed hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. 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 quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by using your bones to convey sound to the brain.
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 isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.