Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, 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 fun.)
But what 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 going on. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a little alarmed!
Also, your overall hearing might not be working right. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, this is why
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- It’s challenging to hear in noisy locations: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can abruptly 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: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it this way: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
- Your brain gets tired: 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 spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make a lot of tasks throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing specialists call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be considered.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing 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 on one side before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- 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 swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- 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’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be quite painful, and normally causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. 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.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best option for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other issues like too much earwax can be easily removed.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may 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 using your bones to convey sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for those who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
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 important for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!