Loss of Hearing in One Ear? What You Should Do

Loss of hearing in one ear can be temporary or permanent. A temporary disablement is often the result of an infection or blockage that’s best reversed as soon as possible. However, if it’s the consequence of gradual aging then it is usually best treated with a hearing aid.

If your hearing loss in one ear developed slowly after you passed your fiftieth year, take courage. Hearing aids for your particular condition need not be as expensive as you fear. We’ll explain how this works towards the end of this article. But first, we’d like to share what could be happening in your auditory hearing system.

Understanding What May Be Causing Your Loss of Hearing in One Ear

Our outer ear canals are the gateway to our auditory systems. They increase the sound pressure in the middle frequency range. The ear drum transfers the vibrations to the middle ear, where tiny bones produce vibration pressure twenty times more.

Hearing Mechanics: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation: Public Domain

These vibrations enter the spiral cochlea at the heart of our diagram. Liquid within the cochlea flows in response, stimulating tiny, delicate bunches of hairs. As these shift, they amplify the traveling sound wave forty times more.

This enters a sound-processing center that transforms the fluid waves to nerve signals that travel to our brain. There, our auditory cortex turns what was once sound, into awareness and perception. The auditory cycle is complete and it allows us to ‘hear’.

There are several points in our auditory system where loss of hearing can occur in one ear, or both. Let’s spend the rest of this article sharing what can cause this, what the consequences are for our life style, and what science can do to improve things.

The Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear or Both

  1. A person may be born with hearing This is due to genetic factors causing incomplete development of one or more components of their hearing system. A technique called brain stem audiometry measures the signal strength reaching the auditory cortex.

This information is helpful in determining an appropriate hearing technology. This can be a complex solution bypassing the ear canal and eardrum. But it can also be as simple as fitting a hearing aid to amplify external sound.

  1. The hearing loss could also be due to auditory processing disorder. This leads to a person experiencing difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech.

This cause is believed to be a fault in the central nervous system.  Between 2% and 7% of kids in US and UK have it, but the likelihood is higher in the elderly and increases with age. Multi-faceted treatment includes:

  1. A) A different learning environment for kids with the condition
  2. B) Developing new, high-order skills to compensate for hearing loss
  3. C) Treatments aimed at addressing the deficit in the system
  4. Exposure to elevated noise for a long period can damage an otherwise ‘perfect’ hearing system with no fundamental defects. The effects are many, including loss of hearing in one or both ears, tinnitus, and sleep disturbance.

The result is a permanent alteration to pre-tone thresholds, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss from physical damage. The damage may be most marked around the frequency of the sound causing the trauma. A digital hearing aid can often compensate for the damage.

Hearing Loss in One Ear and Lifestyle

Loss of hearing in one ear affects our lifestyle in several ways. In the first instance, we have difficulty focusing on sounds because our ‘stereophonic direction finding’ system is impaired.

The loss of function can mean we have difficulty hearing what people are saying. We may not realize a cyclist is fast approaching from behind as we stroll down a quiet road. We may lose our balance as we react at the last moment. That’s because loss of hearing in one ear affects our ability to keep our head upright.

Simple Things We Can Do to Improve Our Hearing

  1. One common cause of sudden hearing loss is something blocking the ear cana Some people have overenthusiastic ‘earwax factories’, while kids have been known to push small objects into them. Always consult a doctor if sudden, one-ear hearing loss develops. This is not a good place to explore with a pair of tweezers.
  2. The second common cause of unexpected loss of hearing in one ear is a viral or bacterial infection. You do need to consult a doctor if the infection lasts longer than 24 hours, because it could lead to permanent harm if untreated.
  3. However, permanent loss of hearing in one ear (or both) is likely to be a permanent, chronic condition we have to come to terms with. A surprising number of older people have conquered it by purchasing hearing aids.

These don’t have to be expensive to do the job. Blue Angels Hearing has supplied tens-of-thousands of digital hearing aids to grateful customers over almost a decade. Learn more about this simple solution, or follow this link to a less obvious alternative.


Can Ear Infections Cause Hearing Loss?

Is Hearing Loss Genetic or Part of Life?