Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend all night up front. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That part’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else could be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little worried!
Also, your overall hearing might not be working right. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Amongst the most prominent effects are the following:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: Someone yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one working ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have trouble discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Normal everyday tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Abnormal 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 particular way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions 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.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely evident. 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. The outcome can be rather painful, and usually triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little 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.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. Other issues such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids make use of your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique kind of hearing aid is designed exclusively for people 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 complex, 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. It’s not something that should be disregarded. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!