Potential Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, so you spend all night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up the next morning. (That’s not so enjoyable.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? 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 may feel a little worried!

Also, your general hearing might not be working properly. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Someone yells your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have trouble detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You wear your brain out: 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 whole sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Standard everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical names for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be quite painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t 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 too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best solution for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily removed.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, might be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is designed specifically for people who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very reliable.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. It isn’t something that should be disregarded. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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