Hearing Loss in One Ear – Possible Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That’s not so enjoyable.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else must be going on. And you may be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, this is why

In general, your ears work together. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prominent effects are the following:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just away.
  • You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks throughout your daily life 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.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be assessed.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely obvious. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty frightening, 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 isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by basic instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially designed hearing aid is specifically made to manage single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids make use of your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.



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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