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Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

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 wake up in the morning. (That part’s less 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 must be happening. And you might be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Also, your general hearing might not be working properly. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems

In general, your ears work together. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Amongst the most prevalent effects are the following:

  • You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear someone 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.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one working ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain becomes tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately 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. This can make a lot of activities during your day-to-day life more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical names for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched problem.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely evident. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be rather painful, and typically triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic 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. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.

So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. Surgery might be the best choice for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by basic instruments.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids use your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This special type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for people who have 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 decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.