Hearing Loss in One Ear – Possible Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you rocked out in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s fun, though it isn’t good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That’s not as enjoyable.)

But what happens if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? Well, if that’s the situation, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a bit worried!

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to processing signals from two ears. So only receiving signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Your ears generally work together (no pun intended) with each other. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual clarity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one working ear, loud spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound appears to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have trouble 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: You won’t be certain if a sound is far away or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain becomes exhausted: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. 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 a lot of activities throughout your day-to-day life more taxing.

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”, typically isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors need to be assessed.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease: When someone is coping with the chronic condition called Menier’s disease, they frequently experience vertigo and hearing loss. In many cases, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear might be affected before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Normally, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be related to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (among other things). When the thin membrane separating your ear canal and your middle ear gets a hole in it, this kind of injury happens. The result can be rather painful, and normally leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound kind of intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing reactions to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can be caused by any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s possible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a particular way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this inflammation can obstruct your ear canal, making it difficult for you to hear.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Depending on what’s causing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. Surgery might be the best choice for certain obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, may 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 individuals 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 decoded by your brain. It’s very complex, very cool, and very effective.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you make up for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids make use of your bones to move the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much of the ear altogether.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be dismissed. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your general health. So schedule a visit with us today, so you can begin 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.

Questions? Talk To Us.