Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s fun, though it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit worried!
Also, your general hearing may not be working right. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes issues
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
- You can’t be sure how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating 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 failing to get the whole sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Standard everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be assessed.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- 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 isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed 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. A cotton swab can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be very obvious. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. The outcome can be rather painful, and typically leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:
- 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 altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to manage single-sided hearing impairment. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s detected by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.