Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so 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 must be going on. And you may be a little concerned when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.
What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.
Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, this is why
Your ears basically work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:
- Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
- It’s hard to hear in loud places: Loud places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You have difficulty discerning volume: In the same way as 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 determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is simply quiet or just away.
- Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. Normal daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.
So what causes hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be assessed.
Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
- Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
- Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
- Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, 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.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
- Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound pretty frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
- Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If you’re experiencing earwax clogging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
So… What do I do about my single-sided hearing loss?
Depending on what’s causing your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This special type of hearing aid is designed specifically for those with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complex, very cool, and very effective.
- Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.
Your hearing specialist is the beginning
If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.