Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

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

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

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear causes issues, this is why

In general, your ears work together. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very difficult to hear: With only one working ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • Your brain becomes tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make all kinds of tasks during your daily life more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical names for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t the result of noise related damage. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.

Here are a few of the most prevalent causes:

  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be due 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 gets a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. The outcome can be really painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just create a worse and more entrenched issue.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • 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 produces swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatments will differ. Surgery may be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by basic 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 kind of specially created hearing aid is primarily made to manage 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 detected by your brain. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can start hearing out of both ears again!

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment


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.
Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call or Text Us