Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not as fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else might be at work. And you might be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Moreover, your general hearing may not be working right. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes issues
Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. 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 result. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: Somebody calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
- It’s hard to hear in noisy places: With only one functioning ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
- You have trouble detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. 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 distant.
- Your brain gets exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Standard everyday activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more typical type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible causes should be assessed.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may 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.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the situation, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very evident. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among 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 happens. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other issues like too much earwax can be easily removed.
In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is designed specifically for individuals with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids make use of your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.