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 day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less fun.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a little concerned!
Moreover, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, this is why
In general, your ears work together. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prominent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s difficult to hear in noisy places: With only one working 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 have difficulty discerning volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, 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 especially true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks during your daily life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
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 usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should talk to 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 frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions 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 swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely evident. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be rather painful, and usually causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Abnormal 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 particular way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. Surgery may be the best choice for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.
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:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special kind of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for those with 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 complex, very cool, and very reliable.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. 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!