Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less enjoyable.)
But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else must be happening. And you may be a bit concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
Moreover, your overall hearing may not be working properly. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.
Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems
Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:
- You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: Somebody calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely hard to hear: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. 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 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 difficult to detect whether that sound is quiet or just away.
- You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make a lot of activities during your daily life more exhausting.
So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?
“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Other infections: One of your body’s most common 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.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you have earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be affected before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
- Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal on their own. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.
In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially made hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing loss. 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 complex, very cool, and very reliable.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It’s not something that should be disregarded. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!