Hearing Loss in One Ear – Potential Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not as fun.)

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 could be at work. And you might be a bit worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Moreover, your general hearing might not be working properly. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

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

In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward 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 correctly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find 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.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one working ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have difficulty 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: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make a lot of tasks throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

Hearing specialists call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” 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 evaluate other possible factors.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they often 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 comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions 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 be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.
  • 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 usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the situation, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

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 may be the best solution for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely created hearing aid is primarily made to manage single-sided hearing impairment. With this hearing aid, sound is received 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 compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment 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.