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 enjoyable, although it’s not good for your ears which will be ringing when you wake up the next morning. (That part’s less fun.)

But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is probably not to blame in that situation. Something else might be at work. And when you develop hearing loss in one ear only… you might feel a bit worried!

What’s more, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Usually, your brain is sorting out information from both ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear leads to issues

Your ears generally work in concert (no pun intended) with each other. Your two outward facing ears help you hear more accurately, similar to how your two forward facing eyes help with depth perception. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Among the most prevalent effects are the following:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: Someone calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! When your hearing goes out in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • When you’re in a loud setting it becomes very hard to hear: Noisy places such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear functioning. That’s because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
  • You have difficulty detecting volume: In the same way as you need both ears to triangulate direction, you kind 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 far away or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one of your ears, your brain can become overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s desperately trying to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make all kinds of activities throughout your day-to-day life more exhausting.

So how does hearing loss in one ear occur?

Hearing specialists call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” Single sided hearing loss, unlike typical “both ear hearing loss”, normally isn’t caused by noise related damage. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible factors.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in very rare cases, that hearing loss on one side can be the outcome of irregular bone growth. This bone can, when it grows in a certain way, hinder your ability to hear.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is hard to miss. Objects in the ear, head trauma, or loud noise (amongst other things) can be the cause of a ruptured eardrum. And it happens when there’s a hole 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: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can result in vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not uncommon with Menier’s disease to lose hearing in one ear before the other. Menier’s disease frequently comes with single sided hearing loss and ringing.
  • 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 isn’t cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
  • Earwax: Yes your hearing can be obstructed by excessive earwax packed in your ear canal. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you have earwax blocking your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! This reaction isn’t always localized, so any infection that produces inflammation can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.

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

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will differ depending on the root cause. In the case of specific obstructions (like bone or tissue growths), surgery might be the ideal option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will normally heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away by simple instruments.

Your single-sided hearing loss, in some cases, may be permanent. We will help, in these situations, by prescribing one of two possible hearing aid options:

  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to convey sound to the brain.

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is manufactured exclusively for individuals with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your plugged ear and send them to your brain via your good ear. It’s quite effective not to mention complicated and very cool.

It all starts with your hearing specialist

There’s probably a good reason why you can only hear out of one ear. In other words, this isn’t a symptom you should be ignoring. It’s important, both for your wellness and for the health of your hearing, 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.