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 show. You’re awesome, so you spend the entire night up front. It isn’t exactly hearing-healthy, but it’s enjoyable, and the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears. (That part’s not so enjoyable.)

But what if you awaken and can only hear out of one ear? The rock concert is most likely not to blame in that case. Something else could be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in only one ear… you might feel a bit worried!

In addition, your hearing might also be a little out of whack. Your brain is accustomed to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting signals from a single ear can be disorienting.

Why hearing loss in one ear results in issues

In general, your ears work together. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, 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:

  • Pinpointing the direction of sound can become a real challenge: You hear somebody attempting to get your attention, but looking around, you can’t locate where they are. It’s extremely hard to triangulate the direction of sound with only one ear functioning.
  • When you’re in a noisy setting it becomes extremely hard to hear: Noisy settings such as event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with just one ear working. 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 direction, but you also need both to figure out 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 away.
  • You wear your brain out: Your brain will become more fatigued faster if you can only hear out of one ear. That’s because it’s desperately trying to compensate for the loss of hearing from one of your ears. This is especially true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. basic everyday activities, as a result, will become more exhausting.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss in one ear?

Hearing professionals call impaired hearing in one ear “unilateral hearing loss” or “single-sided hearing loss.” While the more typical kind of hearing loss (in both ears) is typically caused by noise-related damage, single-sided hearing loss isn’t. So, other possible factors need to be assessed.

Some of the most prevalent causes include the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a degenerative hearing condition that can lead to 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 typical symptom of Meniere’s Disease.
  • Other infections: Swelling is one of your body’s most prevailing responses to infection. It’s just what your body does! Swelling in reaction to an infection isn’t necessarily localized so hearing loss in one ear can result from any infection that would trigger inflammation.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the nerves of the inner ear and may sound a bit 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.
  • Irregular Bone Growth: It’s feasible, in extremely rare instances, that hearing loss on one side can be the result of irregular bone growth. And when it grows in a specific way, this bone can actually impede your hearing.
  • Ear infections: Swelling usually happens when you’re experiencing an ear infection. And it will extremely difficult to hear through a swollen, closed up ear canal.
  • Earwax: Yup, occasionally your earwax can get so packed in there that it cuts off your hearing. It has a similar effect to using earplugs. If you’re experiencing earwax plugging your ear, never try to clean it out with a cotton swab. Cotton swabs can jam the earwax even further up against the eardrum.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Usually, a ruptured eardrum is difficult to miss. It can be due to head trauma, loud noises, or foreign objects in the ear (amongst other things). And it happens when there’s a hole between the thin membrane that separates your ear canal and middle ear. The result can be rather painful, and normally triggers tinnitus or hearing loss in that ear.

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

Treatment options for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the underlying cause. Surgery might be the best option for specific obstructions such as tissue or bone growth. Some problems, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. Other issues such as too much earwax can be easily cleared away.

In some instances, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. We will help, in these cases, by prescribing one of two potential hearing aid options:

  • CROS Hearing Aid: This distinctive type of hearing aid is manufactured specifically for people who have 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 only one ear, these hearing aids use your bones to conduct the sound waves to your brain, bypassing much 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. In other words, this is not a symptom you should be ignoring. Getting to the bottom of it is important for hearing and your general health. So begin hearing out of both ears again by making 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.