Hearing Loss in One Ear – Possible Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, you were in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It’s enjoyable, though it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That part’s not so fun.)

But what happens 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 could be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little alarmed!

Moreover, your overall hearing might not be working properly. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, this is why

Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can happen. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • You can have difficulty pinpointing the direction of sounds: 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 origin of sounds.
  • It’s hard to hear in loud locations: Noisy places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal everyday tasks, as a result, will become more taxing.

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. While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible causes should be considered.

Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical results when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. While it isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very evident. 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 has a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s causing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the appropriate option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.

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

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially designed hearing aid is primarily made to manage single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is received at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s detected by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very reliable.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

If you aren’t hearing out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be neglecting. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. 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.

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