Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend all night up front. It’s fun, though it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up the next morning. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)
But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else must be going on. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit worried!
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues
Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes extremely hard to hear: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort 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 just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become 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 make up for it. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. basic daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, hinder your ability to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be rather painful, and usually triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear might be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible 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. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
So how should I handle 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 might be the appropriate option. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by basic instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special type 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 complex, very cool, and very effective.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by using your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.