Let’s imagine 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 if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? 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 only one ear… you may feel a little concerned!
What’s more, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes issues, this is why
Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have trouble discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine 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.
- You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical names for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to look at other possible factors.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, impede 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 bit more intimidating than it normally is. 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 very obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this type of injury happens. The outcome can be really painful, and usually leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- 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 might be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery could be the best choice for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. Other issues like too much earwax can be easily removed.
In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially manufactured hearing aid is specifically 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 quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It isn’t something that should be ignored. It’s important, both for your well-being and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.