Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend all night up front. It’s enjoyable, though it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That’s not as fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else could be at work. And you might be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Moreover, your general hearing may not be working right. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, here’s why
Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have difficulty detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. 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 was originating from.
- You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. basic daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing experts 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 normally caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to 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.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be very obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among 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. The result can be really painful, and typically leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound kind of frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the root cause. Surgery could be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially created hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is received at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!