Potential Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

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 isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s fun, and the next morning, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s less fun.)

But what if you can only hear out of one ear when you wake up? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that situation. Something else could be at work. And you may be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

What’s more, your hearing may also be a little out of whack. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear causes problems

Generally speaking, your ears work as a functional pair. Your two side facing ears help you hear more precisely, much like 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:

  • You can have difficulty identifying the direction of sounds: Somebody calls your name, but you have no clue where they are! It’s exceedingly hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes really difficult to hear: With only one working ear, loud places 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 kind of need both ears to determine how loud something is. Think about it like this: You won’t be sure if a sound is distant or merely quiet if you don’t know where the sound is coming from.
  • You tire your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can get overly tired, extra fast. That’s because it’s trying desperately to make up for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear suddenly occurs. This can make all kinds of tasks during your day-to-day life more taxing.

So what causes hearing loss in one ear?

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

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in response to an infection isn’t always localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would cause inflammation.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerves of the inner ear and might sound a little more intimidating than it usually is. While it’s not cancerous, necessarily, an acoustic neuroma is still a serious (and potentially life-threatening) condition that you should consult your provider about.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you have an ear infection. And this swelling can block your ear canal, making it impossible for you to hear.
  • Earwax: Yup, sometimes your earwax can get so packed in there that it blocks your hearing. It’s like using an earplug. If this is the case, don’t reach for a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can just cause a worse and more entrenched issue.
  • Abnormal Bone Growth: In very 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 interfere with your hearing.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, 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 along with a great deal of pain result.
  • 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. Hearing loss in one ear with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

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

Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary based upon the root cause. Surgery could be the best solution for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal naturally. And still others, like an earwax based blockage, can be removed by simple instruments.

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

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This unique kind of hearing aid is designed specifically for people 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 detected by your brain. It’s quite effective not to mention complex and very cool.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transfer sound to the brain.

Your hearing specialist is the beginning

If you aren’t hearing 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 the health of your hearing, to get to the bottom of those causes. So begin 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.

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