Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend all night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That’s not so enjoyable.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else might be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit worried!
Also, your general hearing may not be working properly. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward 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. Amongst the most prevalent effects are the following:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have difficulty detecting volume: Just like 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 certain if a sound is far away or merely 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 become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. basic everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing specialists call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be considered.
Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, hinder your ability to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is difficult 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 dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. The result can be rather painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- 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 response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. Some issues, 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 cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is designed specifically 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 reliable.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.