Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend all night in the front row. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a little worried!
Moreover, your overall hearing might not be working right. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems
Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can happen. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in loud places: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have trouble detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- 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 desperately trying to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make a lot of activities throughout your daily life more exhausting.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the result 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 common causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a worse and more entrenched problem.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows 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 speak with your provider about.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. The outcome can be rather painful, and typically causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special kind of hearing aid is designed exclusively for people who have single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. It isn’t something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.