Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend all night up front. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else may be at work. And you may be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
What’s more, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, here’s why
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone 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 functioning.
- It’s challenging to hear in noisy places: With only one working ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have trouble detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or merely 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 desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing professionals 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 typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Here are a few of the most common causes:
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be related to 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 kind of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery could be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by basic instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss 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 transmit sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for people who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can 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.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. 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.