Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else could be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit alarmed!
What’s more, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, this is why
Generally speaking, your ears work together. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prevalent effects are the following:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: Someone yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes really difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
- You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued 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. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of activities during your daily life 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.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, 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. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The outcome can be really painful, and typically leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Irregular 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.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it normally 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 vary depending on the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best choice for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by basic instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely designed hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by using your bones to convey sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
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 a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!