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 whole rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (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 case. Something else might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little worried!

In addition, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Why hearing loss in one ear causes issues

In general, your ears work together. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s difficult to hear in loud locations: With only one functioning ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You have trouble detecting volume: Just like you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
  • You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. basic daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

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

Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound rather frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have 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.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be really evident. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot 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 how your body responds. This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, interfere with your ability to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

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

Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal naturally. And still others, including an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by basic instruments.

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 options:

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by scheduling 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.