Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less fun.)
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 could be at work. And you may be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
In addition, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual sharpness, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one working ear, loud settings like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have trouble detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day 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.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really obvious. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this type of injury happens. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched problem.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
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 certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids utilize your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially made hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
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 ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!