Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend all night in the front row. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That part’s not so 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 situation. Something else must be going on. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a bit concerned!
Moreover, your general hearing may not be working properly. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, here’s why
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prevalent effects are the following:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceptionally hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes really hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have trouble discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. 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 is coming from.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become extra 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 compensate. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of tasks during your daily life more taxing.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing professionals call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more typical type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be very obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain result.
- 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 reaction to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In very 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 specific way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique kind of hearing aid is designed specifically for individuals 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
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. It isn’t something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!