Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, so you spend all night in the front row. It’s fun, though it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else might be at work. And you might be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, here’s why
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prevalent impacts are the following:
- You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one working ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of activities during your daily life more exhausting.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing specialists call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common 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 need to be considered.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- 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 reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- 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 specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really evident. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound rather intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. 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.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the underlying cause. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- 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 type of uniquely created hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can detect 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.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your well-being and for the health of your hearing, 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!