Potential Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock show. You’re cool, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as fun.)

But what happens 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 must be going on. And when you develop hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a little alarmed!

What’s more, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • You can have trouble identifying the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting 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 working.
  • It’s hard to hear in loud places: With only one functioning ear, loud places 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: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to detect whether that sound is simply quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain becomes tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make all kinds of tasks throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear happen?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more ordinary kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.

Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it usually is. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should talk to your provider about.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, interfere with your ability to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be really painful, and usually leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the degenerative condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the root cause. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to treat single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and send 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 compensate for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids make use of your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be disregarded. 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 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.