Hearing Loss in One Ear – Possible Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, you rocked out in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up in the morning. (That part’s less fun.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else could be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a bit worried!

Also, your overall hearing might not be working right. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in problems

In general, your ears work together. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Among the most prominent effects are the following:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea 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 hard to hear in loud places: Noisy settings like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just away.
  • Your brain becomes tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

Hearing specialists call impaired 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 the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • 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 situation, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
  • 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. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might 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.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause 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.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be quite painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s causing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. Other problems such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

In some circumstances, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for individuals who have single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is received at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very effective.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness 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.