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 both ears ringing. (That part’s less fun.)

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 cause. Something else must be going on. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a little alarmed!

Moreover, your general hearing may not be working properly. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, this is why

Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can result. Among the most prevalent impacts are the following:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • It’s hard to hear in noisy locations: With only one working ear, noisy settings 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 have difficulty detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it this way: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain becomes tired: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from just one ear so it’s working extra hard to compensate. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s particularly true. This can make a lot of activities throughout your daily life more taxing.

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

Hearing experts call muffled hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more ordinary type of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors should be assessed.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative 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. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (among other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury occurs. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a lot of pain result.
  • 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 reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can lead to the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a specific way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, do not reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

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

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the root cause. Surgery might be the best option for certain obstructions like tissue or bone growth. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of uniquely manufactured hearing aid is specifically made to address single-sided hearing impairment. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up 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.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be ignored. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin hearing out of both ears again by scheduling 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.