Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. 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 two ringing ears. (That part’s not so fun.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that case. Something else must be going on. And you might be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Also, your overall hearing might not be working right. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, this is why
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prominent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
- It’s challenging to hear in loud places: With only one functioning ear, loud settings like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
- You have trouble discerning volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- Your brain becomes tired: 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 abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of activities during your daily life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing professionals call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more ordinary kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really obvious. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s causing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery may be the best solution for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal on their own. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special kind of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for those 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 quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!