Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That part’s less fun.)
But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else must be going on. And you may be a little worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues
Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prominent:
- You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate 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 places: With only one functioning ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating from.
- You have difficulty discerning volume: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it this way: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
- You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks throughout your daily life 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 kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible factors.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
- Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?
Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will vary. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal solution. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transmit sound to the brain.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for those with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
It all starts with your hearing specialist
There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be disregarded. 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!