Possible Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, though it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That part’s less enjoyable.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the culprit. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a bit worried!

Moreover, your general hearing might not be working right. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in problems

Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s hard to hear in noisy places: With only one working ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have trouble discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. basic daily 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 technical names for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to look at other possible factors.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • 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’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • 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 usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain are the outcomes.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.

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

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.

In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially designed hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing impairment. With this hearing aid, sound is received 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.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

It all starts 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 ignoring. It’s important, both for your well-being and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!



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.