Hearing Loss in One Ear – Likely Causes

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 isn’t 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 wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if that’s the case, the rock concert might not be the cause. Something else may be at work. And you might be a little alarmed when you experience hearing loss in only one ear.

In addition, your hearing might also be a little wonky. Normally, your brain is processing information from both ears. So it can be disorienting to get signals from only one ear.

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

Generally speaking, your ears work together. Just like having two front facing eyes helps your depth perception and visual acuity, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more effectively. So the loss of hearing in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prevalent:

  • Distinguishing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t find where they are. When your hearing disappears in one ear, it’s really challenging for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes really difficult to hear: With only one working ear, loud 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 can’t be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to determine volume. Think about it this way: You won’t be certain if a sound is distant or simply quiet if you don’t know where the sound was originating from.
  • Your brain gets tired: Your brain will become more exhausted faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s failing to get the whole sound range from just one ear so it’s working overly hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make a lot of activities throughout your daily life more exhausting.

So what causes 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 common kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically the consequence of noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. This means that it’s time to evaluate other possible factors.

Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can become so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It’s like wearing an earplug. If you have earwax clogging your ear, never try to clear it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can push the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Other infections: One of your body’s most prevailing responses to an infection is to swell up. It’s just how your body responds. This response isn’t always localized, so any infection that causes swelling can result in the loss of hearing in one ear.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: In really rare cases, the cause of your hearing loss might actually be some atypical bone growth getting in the way. This bone can, when it grows in a particular way, impede your ability to hear.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a little more intimidating than it normally is. You should still take this condition seriously, even though it’s not cancerous, it can still be potentially life threatening.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum will typically be extremely evident. It can be due to 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. The outcome can be rather painful, and usually causes tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.
  • Ear infections: Swelling typical happens when you have an ear infection. And it will impossible to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic hearing condition that can lead to vertigo and hearing loss. It’s not unusual with Menier’s disease to lose hearing on one side before the other. Hearing loss in one ear along with ringing is another common symptom of Meniere’s Disease.

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

Depending on what’s producing your single-sided hearing loss, treatment options will vary. Surgery may be the best choice for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. A ruptured eardrum or similar issues will normally heal on their own. And still others, including an earwax based blockage, can be cleared away 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 kind of uniquely made hearing aid is specifically made to treat 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 effective.
  • Bone-Conduction Hearing Aids: These hearing aids bypass most of the ear by utilizing your bones to transmit 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 isn’t something that should be disregarded. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. 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.