Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend all night up front. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up the next morning. (That part’s less fun.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little concerned!

In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, this is why

Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone 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 difficult to hear in noisy places: Loud settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have trouble detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. 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 quiet or just away.
  • You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. Standard daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?

Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible factors.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam 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 what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really obvious. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The result can be rather painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, interfere with your ability to hear.

So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. Surgery may be the best solution for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. Other problems such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids make use of your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is designed specifically for individuals who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and send 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

If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. It’s not something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, 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!



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.


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