Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s fun, though it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you get up in the morning. (That’s not so fun.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the culprit. 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 might also be a little wonky. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, here’s why

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can happen. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: Someone yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s exceptionally hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. 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: 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 difficult to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
  • You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.

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

Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be assessed.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • 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 in one ear 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 due to 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.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the situation, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be removed by simple instruments.

In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially designed hearing aid is specifically 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 decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!

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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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