Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re awesome, so you spend all night up front. It’s fun, although it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not as fun.)

But what happens 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 going on. And you might be a little worried when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

In addition, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues

In general, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prominent:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very difficult to hear: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make a lot of activities during your day-to-day life more exhausting.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?

Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more common kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes should be assessed.

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 might sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really evident. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be rather painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. Other issues like too much earwax can be easily removed.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is designed exclusively for individuals with single-sided hearing loss. 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 complex and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids make use of your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment


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.
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