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 enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not so enjoyable.)
But what happens 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 might be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Moreover, your general hearing might not be working properly. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes issues, here’s why
In general, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody 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 source of sounds.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: 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 whole sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing specialists 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 usually caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be very evident. It can be caused by 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. The outcome can be rather painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound rather intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the underlying cause. Surgery might be the best solution for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to convey sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for those who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be ignored. 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.