Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s fun, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up the next morning. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else could be at work. And you might be a little worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
In addition, your hearing might 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 creates issues, this is why
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prevalent impacts are the following:
- You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: Somebody yells your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- It’s hard to hear in noisy places: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- Your brain gets exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound range from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make all kinds of activities throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. 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 normally is. 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.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative 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.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If you have earwax blocking your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it occurs when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain result.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal on their own. Other issues like too much earwax can be easily removed.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to convey sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.