Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less fun.)

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 case. Something else could be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a bit worried!

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.

Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, here’s why

Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prominent effects are the following:

  • You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin 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 figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have trouble detecting volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain gets tired: 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 just one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be considered.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound rather intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain result.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other issues such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.

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

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to convey sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially created hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing loss. 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 very complicated, very cool, and very reliable.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It’s not something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!

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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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