Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend all night in the front row. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not so fun.)
But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else could be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a bit worried!
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, this is why
Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s challenging to hear in loud locations: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
- Your brain becomes tired: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make a lot of activities throughout your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to look at other possible factors.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The outcome can be quite painful, and typically leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in 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 comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- 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 usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean 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?
Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by using your bones to convey sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complex, very cool, and very effective.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!