Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so fun.)
But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit alarmed!
Also, your general hearing may not be working properly. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes issues
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:
- You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: Somebody calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s challenging to hear in loud places: Loud places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have trouble detecting 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: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
- 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 trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible causes need to be considered.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- 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. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you have earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched problem.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very obvious. 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 has a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
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: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for individuals who have single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very reliable.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your well-being and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.