Potential Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, 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 less 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 cause. Something else must be happening. And you might be a bit worried 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 accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, here’s why

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

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: Somebody yells your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes really hard to hear: With only one working ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to detect whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. basic daily activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

Hearing experts call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible causes should be considered.

Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can block your ear canal, making it difficult for you 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 advances asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Typical, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain are the outcomes.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit more intimidating than it usually is. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common 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 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 could be the best solution for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal naturally. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.

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

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for those with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So start hearing out of both ears again by making 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.