Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend all night in the front row. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not so enjoyable.)
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 might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little alarmed!
In addition, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can happen. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
- Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. basic everyday tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical names for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be considered.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- 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.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. The result can be rather painful, and normally causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues 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. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special kind of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for individuals with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear 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.