Possible Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so fun.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you may feel a little alarmed!

Moreover, your overall hearing might not be working properly. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can happen. Amongst the most prevalent impacts are the following:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very difficult to hear: Noisy settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it this way: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is quiet or just away.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. 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 especially true. This can make a lot of tasks throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be considered.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be quite painful, and usually causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • 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 uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually results when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.

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

Depending on what’s triggering your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery could be the best option for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. And still others, like an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by simple instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely created hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. 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 effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by using your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. It isn’t something that should be disregarded. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, 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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