Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so enjoyable.)
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 must be happening. And you might be a bit alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
In addition, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, here’s why
Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Amongst the most prevalent impacts are the following:
- You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- When you’re in a loud setting it becomes really difficult to hear: With only one working ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have trouble detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to figure out 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 gets tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Normal everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
Hearing specialists call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more typical type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible factors need to be assessed.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, 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). And it happens 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.
- Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- 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 usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition known as 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 frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by basic 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 options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is designed exclusively for those with single-sided hearing loss. 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: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to convey sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is where it all starts
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. 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.