Possible Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, 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 two ringing ears. (That’s not as enjoyable.)

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

Also, your general hearing may 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.

Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, this is why

Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual acuity, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears quits working properly, havoc can result. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s extremely difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is far away or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain becomes tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the complete sound range from only one ear so it’s working extra hard to make up for it. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make all kinds of tasks throughout your daily life more taxing.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

Hearing specialists call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be considered.

Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease frequently is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And this swelling can close up your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push 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. Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will usually be extremely 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 dividing your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. The outcome can be quite painful, and typically triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. Surgery might be the best choice for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal by themselves. Other issues like excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely manufactured 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 complicated, very cool, and very reliable.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by using your bones to transmit sound to the brain.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start 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.