Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s fun, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That’s not as fun.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the culprit. Something else might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit concerned!
Moreover, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, this is why
Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. 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. Amongst the most prevalent effects are the following:
- You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: With only one working ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have difficulty discerning volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is quiet or just away.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: 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 loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing professionals call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible causes.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the situation, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing 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 on one side before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. 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 cause inflammation.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely evident. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be really painful, and usually leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
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 solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially manufactured 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 decoded by your brain. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
- 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 move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. It’s important, both for your well-being and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.