Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)
But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a little alarmed!
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, here’s why
In general, your ears work together. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Among the most prevalent impacts are the following:
- Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s exceptionally difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
- It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: With only one functioning ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. 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 direction, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. Standard daily activities, as a result, will become more taxing.
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 kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible factors.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this inflammation can close up your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
- Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
- Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you have earwax blocking your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a bigger and more entrenched issue.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes swelling can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
- Meniere’s Disease: When somebody 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 on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the root cause. Surgery might be the best option for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.
In some circumstances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:
- 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 most of the ear completely.
- CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
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 isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin hearing out of both ears again!