Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night up front. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else must be going on. And you might be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues
Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Somebody calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing disappears 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 extremely hard to hear: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is coming from.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain gets exhausted: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. 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. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- 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 specific way, impede your ability to hear.
- 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 result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, 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 happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery may be the best solution for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal on their own. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by making use of your bones to convey sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially created hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!