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 whole rock concert last night. It isn’t 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 awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else must be happening. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little alarmed!

In addition, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.

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

In general, your ears work together. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can result. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s exceptionally difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear working.
  • It’s hard to hear in loud locations: With only one working ear, loud places like restaurants or event venues can suddenly 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: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. 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 was originating from.
  • Your brain gets exhausted: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s particularly true. Normal daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t the result of noise related damage. So, other possible factors should be considered.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound rather 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.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. 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 reactions 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 swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The result can be quite painful, and usually triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.

So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from only one ear, these hearing aids utilize your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for individuals who have 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 decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

There’s most likely a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can begin 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.