Potential Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night up front. It’s enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That’s not as fun.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little alarmed!

Also, your general hearing may 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 causes problems, here’s why

Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • It’s challenging to hear in loud locations: With only one functioning ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t figure out where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. 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 is coming from.
  • You tire your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound spectrum 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 throughout your daily life more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

Hearing professionals 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. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.

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 usually is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be quite painful, and usually causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the underlying cause. Surgery may be the best choice for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. 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 quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start 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.