Likely Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

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 fun, although it’s not 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 case, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else may be at work. And you might be a bit alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in problems

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

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. It’s exceedingly difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very hard to hear: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have trouble discerning volume: 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 difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just away.
  • Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss abruptly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make all kinds of tasks during your daily life more taxing.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific 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. So, other possible factors should be assessed.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really evident. It can be related 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 kind of injury happens. The result can be quite painful, and typically causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In very rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss may actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause 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 along with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the situation, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.

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

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. In the case of particular obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal solution. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal on their own. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily removed.

In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss might 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 using your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely made hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can identify sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. 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 an appointment 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.

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