Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That’s not as 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 alarmed!
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Hearing loss in one ear causes issues, here’s why
Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very difficult to hear: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
- You have difficulty detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make a lot of activities during your daily life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible causes.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very 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 type of injury happens. The result can be really painful, and usually triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive 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 worse and more entrenched issue.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery may be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be removed by simple instruments.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids utilize your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely made hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!