Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend all night up front. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)
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 may not be the cause. Something else must be going on. And you might be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Moreover, your general hearing may not be working right. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes issues
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in loud places: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, 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 just quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms 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 possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
- 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 have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery may be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:
- 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 unique kind of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for people with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very reliable.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It’s not something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.