Hearing Loss in One Ear – Potential Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so fun.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the culprit. Something else must be going on. And you may be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

What’s more, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Hearing loss in one ear causes issues, here’s why

In general, your ears work together. 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 hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:

  • You can have trouble distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: Loud places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more typical kind 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 considered.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions to an infection is to swell up. 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 trigger inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little 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.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really evident. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The result can be rather painful, and typically causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.

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

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to manage 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 reliable.
  • 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 altogether.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear 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!



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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