Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little concerned!
Moreover, your general hearing may not be working right. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody yells your name, but you have no idea 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: With only one functioning ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
- Your brain becomes tired: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal daily tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
Hearing specialists call impaired 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 the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be considered.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- 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 you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched problem.
- 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 usually is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be very obvious. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it occurs when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be quite painful, and typically triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. Surgery may be the best option for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal naturally. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be removed by basic instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for those with 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 detected by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids make use of your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. 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 making an appointment with us.