Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

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’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That’s not so enjoyable.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert might not be the culprit. Something else could be at work. And you might be a bit alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

Also, your overall hearing might not be working properly. Your brain is used to processing signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

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

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help with depth perception. So when one of your ears quits working correctly, havoc can happen. Amongst the most prevalent effects are the following:

  • You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: You hear someone attempting 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 very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely hard to hear: Loud settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it like this: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s impossible to know whether that sound is quiet or just away.
  • Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. Standard daily tasks, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are scientific terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to consider other possible factors.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be very evident. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that divides your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a great deal of pain result.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. Often, 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.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows 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 consult your provider about.
  • 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 particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.

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

Depending on what’s generating your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will differ. Surgery might be the best option for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will usually heal naturally. And still others, including an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by basic 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 options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for people who have single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to identify sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite 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 make use of your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear completely.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s most likely a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So start 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.