Likely Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Let’s imagine you go to a rock concert. You’re awesome, so you spend all night up front. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, 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 may be at work. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from one ear only.

Hearing loss in one ear causes issues, this is why

Generally speaking, your ears work together. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, much like how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Amongst the most prominent impacts are the following:

  • You can have trouble distinguishing the direction of sounds: Someone 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 origin of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes very hard to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy spaces like restaurants or event venues can suddenly 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 tell how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: If you can’t determine where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain gets tired: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to make up for it. And when hearing loss abruptly occurs in one ear, that’s especially true. Normal everyday activities, 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 scientific names for when hearing is muffled on one side. While the more typical type of hearing loss (in both ears) is usually caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss is not. So, other possible factors need to be considered.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause swelling. And this inflammation can block your ear canal, making it extremely hard for you to hear.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most common responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that triggers swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s possible, in extremely rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of abnormal bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: While the name might sound rather intimidating, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it isn’t cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be really evident. It can be caused by head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). When the thin membrane dividing your ear canal and your middle ear has a hole in it, this type of injury happens. Usually, tinnitus and hearing loss as well as a lot of pain are the outcomes.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be blocked by too much earwax packed in your ear canal. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, do not grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative condition known as Menier’s disease, they often experience vertigo and hearing loss. Often, the disease advances asymmetrically: one ear might be impacted before the other. Menier’s disease often comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.

So… What can I do about my single-sided hearing loss?

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ based upon the root cause. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the appropriate option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal on their own. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily removed.

In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss might be permanent. And in these situations, we will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This kind of specially manufactured hearing aid is primarily made to manage single-sided hearing impairment. 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 very complex, very cool, and very effective.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: To help you compensate for being able to hear from one ear only, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing most of the ear completely.

Your hearing specialist is where it all starts

There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. It’s not something that should be disregarded. Getting to the bottom of it is essential for hearing and your overall health. So schedule an appointment with us today, so you can start 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.