Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (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 must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a bit worried!
Also, your overall hearing may not be working right. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to problems
Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceptionally hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
- It’s difficult to hear in loud places: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have difficulty detecting volume: Just like 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: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
- You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. basic everyday activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more ordinary kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.
Here are a few of the most common causes:
- 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 a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be rather painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- 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 be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, 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. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
- 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 picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s detected by your brain. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
It all begins with your hearing specialist
There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear 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!