Likely 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 up front. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That’s not as enjoyable.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else may be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you may feel a little worried!

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

Hearing loss in one ear causes problems, this is why

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help your depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Identifying the direction of sound can become a great challenge: Somebody calls your name, but you have no idea where they are! When your hearing disappears 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 really hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have trouble detecting volume: 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 away.
  • You tire your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear from one ear. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. basic daily tasks, as a result, will become 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 impaired on one side. Single sided hearing loss, in contrast to typical “both ear hearing loss”, usually isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to look at other possible causes.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • 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 advances asymmetrically: one ear may be affected 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 common responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely evident. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this kind of injury occurs. The result can be really painful, and usually leads to tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should speak with your provider about.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this swelling can obstruct your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a certain way, this bone can actually hinder your hearing.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If this is the situation, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

So how should I address hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (such as bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar problems will normally heal naturally. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be removed by basic instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically 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.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass much of the ear by making use of your bones to convey sound to the brain.

It all begins with your hearing specialist

If you can’t hear out of both of your ears, there’s most likely a reason. It’s not something that should be disregarded. It’s important, both for your wellness and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. 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.