Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

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 isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less 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 case. Something else must be happening. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit alarmed!

What’s more, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Usually, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can result. Here are a few of the most prominent:

  • You can have trouble pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s exceptionally hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes really hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy places like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
  • You tire your brain out: 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 whole sound spectrum from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. Standard everyday tasks, 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 impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible causes should be considered.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • 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. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be very obvious. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is dealing with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently 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 comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just create a bigger and more entrenched problem.

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

Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will vary. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by basic instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is designed exclusively for people who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • 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 conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this isn’t 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 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.