Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less enjoyable.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else could be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a bit alarmed!
Moreover, your overall hearing might not be working right. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in problems
Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Amongst the most prominent effects are the following:
- You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody attempting 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 source of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in loud places: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- 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 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 suddenly occurs. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing specialists call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more typical type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.
Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be quite painful, and normally causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
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 ideal option. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple 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 compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for those with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to 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
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.