Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s fun, 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 wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else must be going on. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Also, your general hearing might not be working right. 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 issues
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:
- You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in noisy locations: With only one working ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have trouble discerning volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Normal daily tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing professionals call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible causes need to be considered.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely 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 occurs. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain result.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience 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.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely made hearing aid is specifically made to address 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 detected by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very effective.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!