Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not as enjoyable.)
But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit worried!
Also, your general hearing might not be working right. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, this is why
In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceptionally difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- It’s difficult to hear in loud places: Loud places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
- You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
- You tire 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 failing to get the whole sound spectrum from only one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make a lot of activities throughout 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 technical names for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible causes should be assessed.
Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The result can be really painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, interfere with your ability to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best solution for specific obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by basic instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely made hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.