Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

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 in the front row. It’s fun, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a bit worried!

Also, your general hearing might not be working properly. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s hard to hear in loud places: With only one working ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: 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 tire your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. 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 tasks during your daily life more taxing.

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

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more common type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to look at other possible factors.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging 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: While the name may sound rather frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The result can be really painful, and normally causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And this swelling can block your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • 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 reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.

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

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery might be the best solution for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other issues like excessive earwax can be easily removed.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. And in these cases, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to address single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids utilize your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.



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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