Hearing Loss in One Ear – Possible Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so cool, you rocked out in the front row for the entire rock concert last night. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (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 culprit. Something else might be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little alarmed!

Also, your general hearing may not be working right. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only receiving information from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues

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 sharpness, having two side facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So when one of your ears stops working properly, havoc can happen. Here are some of the most prevalent:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s exceptionally difficult to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • It’s hard to hear in loud locations: Loud places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear functioning. 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 location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it like this: 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 gets tired: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get extra tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the lack of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more exhausting.

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

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical names for when hearing is muffled on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to common “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain result.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like wearing an earplug. 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.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is dealing with the chronic condition known as Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • 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 certain way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound rather 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 significant (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of particular obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal solution. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. Other issues such as too much earwax can be easily removed.

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

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is designed exclusively for those who have 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 quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be neglecting. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So begin 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. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.