Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That part’s less fun.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And you may be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Moreover, your overall hearing might not be working right. Normally, 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
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:
- You can have trouble identifying 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 very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes extremely difficult to hear: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort 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 is coming from.
- You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks throughout your daily life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible causes need to be considered.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be due to 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 gets a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain result.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon 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 typical results when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this swelling can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery may be the best choice for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal on their own. Other issues like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to manage single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by using your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!