Can you have hearing loss in one ear?

Do you struggle to recognize where a sound is coming from? Perhaps you have difficulty understanding people when they talk to you from one side. This could mean that you have hearing loss in one ear, also known as unilateral hearing loss.

Hearing loss isn’t always equal in both ears. Just the one ear will experience hearing loss, while the other ear hears perfectly normally. The hearing loss can also range from mild to severe to profound and can often have a significant impact on your quality of life.

Hearing loss in one ear

One-sided hearing loss or unilateral hearing loss can affect children and adults. It can be temporary and once treated, normal hearing can be restored. However, sometimes the hearing loss can be permanent. While you may still have complete hearing in one ear, we are designed to hear with both our ears. Your ears are constantly in communication with each other as they absorb the sounds in your environment.

Signs of unilateral hearing loss

As you may still be able to hear with one ear, it’s not always easy to determine if you have hearing loss in one ear. Signs that you may have lost hearing in one ear can include:

  • Hearing is worse when sound comes from one side
  • All sounds seem quieter than before
  • Difficulty being able to tell where a sound is coming from
  • Struggle to ignore background noise or being able to tell different sounds apart
  • Speech sounds unclear
  • Difficulty hearing over long distances or in noisy environments

Causes of unilateral hearing loss

Hearing changes can occur as just part of the natural ageing process. However, other causes of hearing loss on one side can include:

  • Blockage of the ear (from ear wax or fluid build-up caused by ear infection)
  • Injury to the ear
  • Tumor
  • Illness
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Traumatic brain injury or head trauma
  • Certain medications

Treatment options

Treatment for hearing loss in one ear will largely depend on the particular cause of your hearing loss. Depending on the cause of your unilateral hearing loss, you may require:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection in the ear
  • Surgery to remove a tumor or repair the ear
  • Steroids to reduce swelling or inflammation
  • Stopping the use of a certain medication that could be causing the hearing loss
  • Removal of ear wax build-up or foreign body in the ear

It may be that your one-sided hearing loss is irreversible. Your hearing care professional may, therefore, recommend one of the following treatments to help improve your hearing.

  • CROS hearing aid. Using a microphone placed at the affected ear, it routes the acoustic signal to a hearing aid worn in the working ear
  • BiCROS hearing aid. Similar to the CROS hearing aid, it's used if you have considerably better hearing in one ear
  • BAHA hearing aid. Includes a sound processor and a small titanium fixture implanted behind the ear to enable the bone to transfer sound to your functioning inner ear instead of via your middle ear
  • Cochlear implant. A small electronic device that is implanted under the skin and recommended for people with severe to profound hearing loss that cannot be improved with hearing aids

What to do?

If you experience hearing loss in one ear, you should schedule a consultation with an ENT physician or a hearing care professional as soon as possible. Sometimes simply treating the underlying cause can resolve your loss of hearing. But even if the hearing loss in one ear is permanent, working with your hearing care professional to find the best treatment for you will help you to adjust and look forward to living life to the fullest.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

It's time to finally treat your hearing loss. Sign up for a free consultation with a licensed hearing care professional today to determine if you have hearing loss. It’s the start of your journey towards better hearing.

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