Let’s pretend you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so 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 situation. Something else must be going on. And you may be a bit alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
What’s more, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two side 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. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:
- You can have trouble distinguishing the direction of sounds: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in noisy locations: Noisy settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have difficulty discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is quiet or just away.
- 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 failing to get the whole sound range from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make a lot of activities during your day-to-day life more taxing.
So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible factors need to be assessed.
Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:
- Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this swelling can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really evident. 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 has a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain are the outcomes.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody 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 may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s causing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will vary. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, might be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by making use of your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for individuals who have 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 detected by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It’s not something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.