Because you’re so cool, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s fun, though it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That’s not so fun.)
But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else may be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a bit alarmed!
Also, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting 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 source of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in loud locations: Loud places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating 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 simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up 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 during your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
Hearing experts 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”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Here are a few of the most common causes:
- 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 particular way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really evident. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted 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 be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.
In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for those who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It’s not something that should be disregarded. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.