Possible Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s pretend you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night in the front row. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with both ears ringing. (That part’s not so fun.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. 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 right. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, this is why

In general, your ears work as a functional pair. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps your 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. Here are a few of the most prominent:

  • Identifying the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate 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: With only one working ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t make heads or tails of where any of that sound is originating from.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate direction, but you also need both to determine volume. 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 simply quiet or just distant.
  • You wear your brain out: 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 compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. basic everyday activities, 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 scientific names for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is normally the result of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible causes should be assessed.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be caused by 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 separates your ear canal and middle ear. The outcome can be rather painful, and usually triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. 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.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing 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.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually interfere with your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can trigger swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • 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. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. Surgery could be the best choice for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. 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.

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

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to convey sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This type of specially created hearing aid is primarily made to treat single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids are able to detect sounds from your plugged ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very effective not to mention complex and very cool.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. It’s not something that should be ignored. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your overall health. So start hearing out of both ears again by making an appointment with us.



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.