Hearing Loss in One Ear – Potential Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, 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 day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as enjoyable.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that case. Something else must be going on. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

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

In general, your ears work as a functional pair. 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 impacts are the following:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have difficulty discerning volume: 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 this way: 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 tire your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. Normal everyday activities, as a result, will become more taxing.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific names for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more ordinary kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible factors need to be assessed.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit 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.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely 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 particular way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely evident. 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 gets a hole in it, this type of injury happens. The result can be quite painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched problem.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by basic instruments.

In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is designed specifically for those with 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 complex, very cool, and very effective.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by making use of your bones to transmit sound to the brain.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It’s not something that should be ignored. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by scheduling an appointment with us.



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.


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