Likely Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear


Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as enjoyable.)

But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And you may be a bit alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Moreover, your general hearing might not be working properly. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, here’s why

Generally speaking, your ears work together. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prevalent effects are the following:

  • You can have trouble distinguishing the direction of sounds: Someone yells your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • It’s hard to hear in noisy places: With only one working ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have difficulty discerning volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
  • Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound range from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. basic everyday activities, as a result, will become more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

Hearing specialists call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • 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 usually is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted 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 really 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 separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be rather painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.

So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. Surgery might be the best option for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by basic instruments.

In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively 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 detected by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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