Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That part’s less 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 culprit. Something else could be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a bit concerned!
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes issues
In general, your ears work together. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating 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 figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
- Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound range from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Normal daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
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”, normally isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:
- 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 usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common 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 result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among 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 occurs. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to manage single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is received at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s detected by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated 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 completely.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!