Likely Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

Woman cupping ear and grimacing because of single sided hearing loss

Because you’re so hip, you were in the front row for the whole rock concert last night. It’s not exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so fun.)

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

Also, your overall hearing might not be working right. Normally, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Hearing loss in one ear creates problems, here’s why

Your ears basically work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two side facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two front facing eyes help your depth perception. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Amongst the most prevalent impacts are the following:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a great challenge: You hear someone attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate 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 difficult to hear: With only one functioning ear, noisy settings like restaurants or event venues can abruptly become overwhelming. That’s because your ears can’t determine where any of that sound is coming from.
  • 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: If you can’t figure out where a sound is coming from, it’s difficult to know whether that sound is quiet or just distant.
  • Your brain gets exhausted: 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 lack of hearing from one of your ears. And when hearing loss suddenly happens in one ear, that’s especially true. This can make a lot of tasks throughout your daily life more taxing.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

“Single sided Hearing Loss” or “unilateral hearing loss” are technical terms for when hearing is impaired on one side. While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible causes need to be assessed.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In extremely rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some irregular bone growth getting in the way. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is hard 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. Normally, tinnitus and hearing loss along with a great deal of pain result.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit more intimidating than it normally is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a significant (and possibly life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can trigger swelling. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When somebody is coping with the degenerative 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 often is accompanied by single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing reactions to infection. It’s just how your body responds. Swelling in response to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If this is the case, don’t grab a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.

So how should I handle hearing loss in one ear?

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the underlying cause. In the case of certain obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery may be the ideal option. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will usually heal naturally. Other problems such as excessive earwax can be easily cleared away.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some circumstances, might be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid solutions:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique kind of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for people with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your impacted ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s very complicated, very cool, and very reliable.
  • 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 altogether.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s probably a good reason why you’re only hearing out of one ear. It isn’t something that should be disregarded. It’s important, both for your well-being and for your hearing health, to get to the bottom of those causes. So schedule a visit 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.