Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That’s not as fun.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else must be happening. And you may be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Also, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues

In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can happen. Among the most prominent effects are the following:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • It’s challenging to hear in loud places: Loud settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have difficulty discerning volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. Standard daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

Hearing professionals call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be considered.

Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • 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 this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, 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 occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.
  • 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. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. 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 cause inflammation.
  • 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. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily removed.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique kind of hearing aid is designed exclusively for people who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
  • 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 conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It’s not something that should be ignored. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!

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