Your ears love teamwork. Each one gathers information in the form of sound and sends it to your brain to interpret.
Your brain loves receiving this double dataset. Indeed, we all feel more confident that something’s true when we’ve received the same information from more than one source.
So what happens when you lose hearing in one ear only? What’s going on? And what should you do about it?
Sudden hearing loss on one side is a medical emergency.
See your doctor or audiologist immediately.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss in one ear?
Hearing loss in one ear may start gradually or come on suddenly (if that happens, get help right away).
Losing hearing in one ear makes it hard to hear when there’s a lot of background noise. It may also mean that you can hear your phone ringing but can’t work out where it is since your brain needs information from both ears to localise sound. Hearing loss in one ear can also affect your balance.
What can cause hearing loss in one ear?
Loss of hearing in one ear could be caused by several different conditions including:
- A virus in your auditory system
- An ear infection (otitis media)
- Wax blockage
- An inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal (otitis externa)
- A ruptured eardrum
- A benign growth on your auditory nerve (an acoustic neuroma)
- Trauma, such as a blow to the side of your head
- Meniere’s disease, a rare disorder of the inner ear
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome, when the shingles virus affects the facial nerve near one ear.
How do you treat hearing loss in one ear?
Treatment for hearing loss in one ear starts by working out its cause. Your audiologist will take note of your symptoms, ask you lots of questions, examine you carefully and possibly refer you on to your general practitioner and ear nose and throat specialist.
If your single-sided hearing loss turns out to be a symptom of a bigger condition, then we need to treat that condition. Depending on what that is, you might need medication, surgery or regular check ups. Sometimes treatment for the underlying condition will automatically improve your hearing. Sometimes, we need to treat your hearing loss too.
If it is determined that you do not have an underlying medical condition, then we simply treat the hearing loss. It’s reassuring to have ruled out anything more concerning and we can now focus on improving your hearing.
Hearing loss in one ear requires a special type of hearing aid.
If you have one good ear and one completely deaf ear, then you benefit from a CROS device (contralateral routing of signal). You wear the transmitter or microphone on your deaf ear and the receiver on your good ear . No matter which side the sound comes from, you’ll hear it with your strong ear.
If you have hearing loss in both ears but much worse on one side, then you would benefit from a BiCROS device (bilateral contralateral routing of signal). You wear the hearing aid on the best ear and the transmitter or microphone on the worst one.
How A Better Ear can help
If you experience sudden hearing loss in one ear, please call us immediately, see your doctor today or go to the nearest emergency department. If you’ve noticed a gradual hearing loss in one ear, then please make an appointment for a hearing assessment.
We can help you understand what’s going on and take evidence-based steps to improve your hearing. Early identification and treatment often leads to a good outcome for people with hearing loss in one ear.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.