Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s fun, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up the next morning. (That’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 happening. And you may be a little concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
In addition, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prominent:
- You can have trouble distinguishing the direction of sounds: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- It’s challenging to hear in loud places: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- 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 sure if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. basic daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
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 caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors need to be considered.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. The result can be really painful, and typically leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the situation, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may 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.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. Surgery may be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for those who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!