Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else must be going on. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little worried!
In addition, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:
- Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes really hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
- You have trouble detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- You tire your brain out: 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 whole sound spectrum from just 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. This can make a lot of tasks throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among 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 quite painful, and typically causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- 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.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
- 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 on one side before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the root cause. Surgery might be the best choice for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by basic instruments.
In some circumstances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to convey sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special type of hearing aid is designed exclusively for those with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. 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!