Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as fun.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else might be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit alarmed!
Also, your general hearing might not be working right. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues
Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Among the most prominent effects are the following:
- You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s exceptionally hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: With only one working ear, loud settings like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
- You have difficulty discerning volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
- Your brain gets exhausted: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from 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. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. basic everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be really painful, and usually causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. 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.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best choice for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be removed by basic instruments.
In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to manage single-sided hearing impairment. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by using your bones to convey sound to the brain.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. 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 begin hearing out of both ears again!