Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That part’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the culprit. Something else must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a little worried!
What’s more, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems
Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can result. Among the most prevalent effects are the following:
- Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very difficult to hear: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is coming from.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is quiet or just away.
- You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, 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 compensate. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of activities throughout your daily life more taxing.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing professionals call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more ordinary kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes should be considered.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be really painful, and typically leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- 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 serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Irregular 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 specific way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery could be the best choice for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily removed.
In some circumstances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially manufactured 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 complicated and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by making use of your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be disregarded. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!