Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

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

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert may not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit concerned!

What’s more, your hearing may also be a little wonky. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.

Hearing loss in one ear creates issues, this is why

Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So when one of your ears stops working correctly, havoc can happen. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • Identifying 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 goes out in one ear, it’s really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the source of sounds.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes extremely hard to hear: With only one working ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You can’t be sure how loud anything is: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate location, you sort of need both ears to figure out how loud something is. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or just quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate 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 all kinds of activities throughout your daily life more exhausting.

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. Single sided hearing loss, unlike common “both ear hearing loss”, typically isn’t caused by noise related damage. So, other possible factors need to be considered.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name may sound rather frightening, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear. You still need to take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss could actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease progresses asymmetrically: one ear may be affected before the other. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Typical, 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. And it occurs when a hole is created between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain are the outcomes.
  • Ear infections: Infections of the ear can cause swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most common reactions to infection. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to wearing earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax blocking your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. A cotton swab can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.

So how should I deal with hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the root cause. In the case of specific obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal by themselves. Other problems like too much earwax can be easily removed.

In some circumstances, however, your single-sided hearing loss could be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive kind of hearing aid is designed exclusively for those who have single-sided hearing loss. With this hearing aid, sound is picked up at your bad ear and sent to your good ear where it’s decoded by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids make use of your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear altogether.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s probably a reason. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general 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. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.