Possible Causes Of Hearing Loss In One Ear
Lets pretend you go to a rock concert. Youre cool, so you spend all night in the front row. Its not exactly hearing-healthy, but its funand the next day, you wake up with two ringing ears.
But what if you wake up and can only hear out of one ear? Well, if thats the case, the rock concert may not be the culprit. Something else might be at work. And when you experience hearing loss in one ear only you might feel a little alarmed!
Whats moreyour hearing might also be a little wonky. Your brain is used to sorting out signals from two ears. So only getting information from a single ear can be disorienting.
Sudden Hearing Loss In One Ear: What You Need To Know
Sudden Hearing Loss in One Ear: What You Need to Know
Sudden hearing loss or deafness is a medical condition that usually affects one ear. This phenomenon is often an unexplained and rapid incidence of hearing loss that is considered a medical emergency. Sudden hearing loss in one ear can be accompanied by dizziness and tinnitus in one or both ears. While it is easy to write this type of hearing loss off as a side effect of allergies, sinus infections, earwax buildups, or other more mundane conditions prompt diagnosis and treatment is imperative to maintaining total hearing health. Any delay in receiving treatment for this type of sudden hearing loss can decrease the effectiveness of treatment and put patients at risk for prolonged hearing damage.
What are the Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss?
The symptoms of sudden hearing loss extend beyond an acute episode of sudden deafness. The condition may be preceded by ear pressure, tinnitus, loss of sensation in the outer ear and dizziness up to a few days prior to the hearing loss. The cause of sudden hearing loss is yet to be determined by the medical community, but in many cases the circulation of the inner ear is restricted during the conditions onset. Audiologists and Ear, Nose and Throat specialty physicians suggest that sudden hearing loss in one ear can be attributed to:
Viral or bacterial infections
Thrombosis of the inner ears blood vessels
Why Is It Important To Manage Unilateral Hearing Loss Or Single
It’s beneficial to hear with two ears for several reasons. Our brain hears best when it receives input from both ears. For example, input from both ears allows our brain to separate speech from background noise to hear better in noisy places, such as restaurants, classrooms and social gatherings.
Sound localization is only possible when there is sound input from both ears. For safety reasons, this is especially important when you need to identify a sound source quickly. In addition, our brain actually amplifies the intensity of the sound when it receives input from both ears so that we can hear softer sounds with two ears compared to only one ear.
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You Have A Brief Window To Seek Treatment
Everyone’s hearing naturally declines with age, and people often have one ear that hears better than the other. But if hearing loss appears suddenly in one ear for no apparent reason, you may have experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SHL, a kind of nerve deafness.
There are about 66,000 new cases of SHL per year in the United States, according to research in the August 2019 issue of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. But these numbers are hard to come by, since the condition may be underdiagnosed.
“The main reason is that people don’t view it as a serious problem and don’t get the medical care they need. This delay increases the risk of permanent hearing loss,” says Dr. Steven Rauch, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear.
Act Quickly With Sudden Hearing Loss
Sudden hearing loss is something that you should definitely get checked out. There are a number of conditions that could cause it, including an acoustic neuroma or SSNH. With these causes getting treatment sooner rather than later can make a huge difference in your ability to hear in the long term.
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What Is Unilateral Hearing Loss
A unilateral hearing loss occurs when hearing in one ear is within normal limits, while hearing in the other ear has some degree of reduction in hearing. Unilateral hearing loss can range from mild to profound in severity. You can have unilateral hearing loss from birth, or hearing loss can develop later in life, suddenly or gradually.
How Can A Specialist Help
Once a patient is diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss, they should be seen by an otolaryngologist/neurotologist within 24 to 48 hours. The specialized treatment is started rather urgently because it offers the best chance for the best outcome.
Well start with a physical examination and take a medical history. We often order an MRI of the brain and inner ear to evaluate any changes or compression of the nerve responsible for hearing and balance. Based on your personal and family medical history, we also may order laboratory tests to assess for diabetes, other autoimmune disorders or infections.
Treatment will depend on your existing conditions. For example, if you have diabetes or hypertension, we will tailor therapies to accommodate those conditions. Your doctor may recommend oral steroids or injection steroids in the middle ear space, or a combination of the two. Steroid treatments decrease inflammation on the nerve to increase blood flow, which improves hearing. Another recommended therapy is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In this treatment, youre put into a chamber that simulates scuba diving. In the chamber, well boost the oxygen level in your system in the hope that itll help it to heal your nerve faster.
Sudden hearing loss can be a frightening and emotional experience. Many of us take our hearing for granted, and once we lose it, we realize how important it is. Seeking treatment right away can lead to more positive outcomes.
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Testing For Sudden Hearing Loss
If you suspect you might have SSNHL, the first step is to make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional. She may conduct a hearing test called pure tone audiometry to measure the hearing loss.
The test can also determine the range of hearing loss in decibels. SSNHL will be diagnosed in the case of a hearing loss of at least 30 decibels in at least three connected frequencies. After diagnosis, she may order further tests in an attempt to determine an underlying cause. Blood tests, MRIs and balance tests are just a few examples that might help get to the bottom of your hearing loss.
If any of your healthcare providers are unwilling to thoroughly investigate your sudden hearing loss, seek a second opinion. As audiologist Dennis Colucci stated, healthcare providers must “understand that sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency. Without immediate action, there is likely to be less benefit and more burden to patients, their families, and the healthcare system.”
Hearing Loss On One Side
Hearing loss on one side
Hearing loss on one side occurs when you have difficulty hearing or you have deafness that affects only one of your ears. People with this condition may have problems understanding speech in crowded environments, locating the source of a sound, and tuning out background noise.
This condition is also known as unilateral hearing loss or unilateral deafness. It may be described as deafness in one ear or on one side, hearing loss in one ear, or inability to hear from one ear. You should still be able to hear clearly with your other ear.
You should always contact your doctor if you experience any type of hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss on one side or both is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical attention. Your doctor will be able to provide treatment options and may refer you to a specialist.
Depending on the cause of your hearing loss, your doctor might recommend medications, surgery, or a hearing aid. In some cases, the condition will go away without treatment.
There are many possible causes for hearing loss on one side, including:
- injury to the ear
Hearing changes can be a natural outcome of aging. Some causes are reversible, like wax buildup in the ear canal or ear infections with fluid buildup. Some are irreversible, like those due to problems with the function of the ear itself.
Hearing loss in one ear may also be the result of prescription medications like:
- chemotherapy drugs
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Shl Or Just A Stuffy Ear Humming Can Tell
How can you know the difference between a regular stuffy ear and sudden hearing loss? Try this test:
Hum aloud to yourself. With normal hearing, you hear the sound equally in both ears. If you do this when you have a new loss of hearing in one ear, the humming will shift to one side or the other.
For example, if your right ear is affected and the hum is louder in that ear, then the hearing loss is more likely a conductive loss, and probably due to blockage from a cold or built-up ear wax.
However, if the humming is louder in the left ear, it suggests the right ear hearing loss is due to recent nerve damage, and that requires prompt medical attention.
Treating Sudden Hearing Loss: Can You Get Your Hearing Back
Although treatments for sudden hearing loss are still fairly limited, they are important: 85% of those who receive prompt medical attention regain some or all of their hearing. This is mostly good news for people hoping to regain their hearing in one ear.
The drugs used to to treat sudden hearing loss are steroids, which suppress inflammation. Specifically, corticosteroids are the most common treatment for SSNHL. They work by helping the body fight illness, decreasing swelling and reducing inflammation. Usually administered in pill form, the steroids also can be given through an injection behind the eardrum.
With prompt treatment, you have a good chance of regaining some or all of your lost hearing.
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Treatment Of Sudden Hearing Loss
The most common treatment for sudden hearing loss is the oral steroid called prednisone. This drug reduces inflammation and suppresses immune response. In some cases, an injection of steroids directly into the ear is called for. These injections are called intratympanic injections.
If the cause of the hearing loss is a simple buildup of wax, called a cerumen impaction, this blockage can be loosened with oil and then flushed or suctioned out by the doctor. If an allergy is causing a fluid buildup, treating the allergy will also treat the hearing loss. This is done with decongestants and antihistamines.
When hearing loss is the result of a viral or bacterial infection, those infections must be cleared. They can be treated with the appropriate antiviral or antibacterial medications.
When a tumor is found to be the cause of sudden hearing loss, it can be treated with radiation, or surgery to remove the tumor may be recommended.
Dr. Djalilian is at the leading edge of treating diseases of the ear and skull base, continually developing new treatment strategies and performing clinical trials to find the best care methods.
Head Trauma Or Injury Head Trauma Or Injury
An abrupt, violent blow to the head, such as those from a car accident or explosion, can cause brain concussions and injuries. These injuries can damage the auditory system and pathway, resulting in sudden hearing loss. The middle and inner ear are more commonly affected, particularly the sensitive nerve cells in the cochlea . Nerve cell damage can lead to hearing loss, as well as tinnitus.
Sometimes a head injury only affects the outer or middle ear, resulting in a type of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. The hearing loss typically goes away within a few months in these cases. However, if the trauma is severe enough to damage the inner ear, the sudden hearing loss may become a long-term, permanent hearing loss.
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Theories Of The Etiology Of Idiopathic Ssnhl
The etiology remains unknown in the majority of patients who present with SSNHL and therefore their hearing loss is classified as idiopathic . Numerous hypotheses of the pathophysiology of idiopathic SSNHL have been proposed. The most widely accepted theories are vascular compromise , cochlear membrane rupture , and viral infection .
However, the clinical course and radiographic findings characteristic of most cases of idiopathic SSNHL are not consistent with a vascular etiology. In cases of sensorineural hearing loss resulting from a known intravascular insult, the loss is permanent, whereas, hearing loss in the majority of cases of idiopathic SSNHL is reversible . Potentially as a reflection of the amount of damage and permanence of the hearing loss following occlusion of the cochlear vasculature, cochlear fibrosis occurs over the subsequent weeks , and this fibrosis can be seen in radiologic studies of patients with hearing loss following known vascular occlusion . In idiopathic SSNHL, cochlear fibrosis is not typically observed . Thus, though a vascular etiology may explain a few cases of idiopathic SSNHL, it is not the cause of most cases of this disorder.
So What Do I Do About My Single
Treatments for single-sided hearing loss will vary depending on the root cause. In the case of certain obstructions , surgery may be the ideal option. Some issues, like a ruptured eardrum, will usually heal on their own. And still others, such as an earwax based obstruction, can be cleared away by simple instruments.
In some cases, however, your single-sided hearing loss may be permanent. And in these cases, your hearing specialist will help by prescribing one of two hearing aid options:
- CROS Hearing Aid: This unique type of hearing aid is designed specifically for people with single-sided hearing loss. These hearing aids can detect sounds from your impacted ear and transfer them to your brain via your good ear. Its very complicated, very cool, and very effective.
- 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.
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What Is Sudden Deafness In One Ear
Also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a hearing impairment that comes on very quickly without any obvious cause. if you or someone you know experiences sudden hearing loss it should be treated as a medical emergency.
As it develops you may experience something caused diplacusis. This is a condition where you hear a single sound at different pitches similar to if the sound youre hearing has an echo.
Why Hearing Loss In One Ear Results In Problems
Your ears generally work in concert with each other. Just like having two forward facing eyes helps you with depth perception and visual sharpness, having two outward facing ears helps you hear more accurately. So hearing loss in one ear can wreak havoc. Here are some of the most prominent:
- You can have difficulty distinguishing the direction of sounds: You hear somebody trying to get your attention, but looking around, you cant locate where they are. When your hearing goes out in one ear, its really very difficult for your brain to triangulate the origin of sounds.
- Its difficult to hear in noisy locations: Loud places like event venues or noisy restaurants can become overwhelming with only one ear working. Thats because all that sound seems to be coming from every-which-direction randomly.
- You cant be sure how loud anything is: You need both ears to triangulate location, but you also need both to figure out volume. Think about it like this: You wont be certain if a sound is distant or just quiet if you dont know where the sound was originating from.
- You wear your brain out: When you lose hearing in one ear, your brain can become extra tired, extra fast. Thats because its failing to get the complete sound range from just one ear so its working overly hard to compensate. This is particularly true when hearing loss in one ear happens suddenly. This can make a lot of tasks throughout your daily life more taxing.
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Ssnhl Vs Other Ear Issues
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is different from the common temporary phenomenon called eustachian tube dysfunction. This is the cloudy hearing and full feeling in the ear that you might experience when traveling on an airplane. Its also different from a feeling of blockage caused by allergies or a cold, though it can feel similar.
SSNHL happens because of damage to the inner ear, or becauseof problems with the nerve fibers that deliver information from the ear to thebrain. Most of the time, theres no clear rhyme or reason why it happens tosomeone. It can be either temporary or permanent.
So, if youexperience a sudden change in your hearing, how do you know whether its SSNHLor one of these other things?
Any kind of noticeable hearing loss should prompt a visit to your primary care doctor or urgent care center for investigation, Dr. Woodson says.
The presence of dizziness or vertigo along with hearing loss can be clues of SSNHL, she says. Some people also report a strong ringing in their ear before their hearing fades.
Thats because the brain does not know what to do with the changes of signal its getting from the ear, so it either misinterprets what bad signal its getting as noise, or its trying to fill in the gap almost like a phantom sound, she explains.