Hearing Loss in One Ear: Causes & Treatment

Jun 18, 2024

What are the symptoms of unilateral hearing loss? What causes single-sided hearing loss? How is hearing loss in one ear treated? Let’s look at the causes and treatments for single-ear hearing loss and how it might be affecting your quality of life.

Every day in the US, millions of Americans will struggle with the effects of hearing loss. While binaural hearing loss, an impairment that affects both ears, is the most commonly encountered on a regular basis impacting roughly 12% of the US population, unilateral hearing loss, or loss of hearing in only one ear, has become a growing experience in recent years. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes for unilateral hearing loss, how it’s diagnosed, and some of the treatment options available for treating this condition.

Common Causes for Unilateral Hearing Loss

Like binaural hearing loss, unilateral hearing loss (UHL) — or single-sided deafness (SSD) as it’s sometimes known — can have a variety of causes that should all be considered serious.

Much like hearing loss in both ears, the symptoms of single-sided hearing loss can include difficulty understanding conversations, trouble with locating the sources of sounds in the environment, and even issues with maintaining balance and coordination. Those experiencing hearing loss will also often ask others to repeat themselves or consume television or music at loud volumes.

Especially in children, unilateral hearing loss can often occur as a result of ear infections, particularly when swelling and fluid buildup create physical barriers to sound. For adults, one major culprit of UHL is from a buildup of wax within the ear canal. Luckily, both of these issues can be easily treated through cleaning or medication. 

Occasionally, SSD  can have more complex causes. Acoustic neuroma, for example, can cause UHL when a non-cancerous tumor forms on the nerve between the ear and the brain. In addition to hearing loss, this condition can also instigate episodes of vertigo and imbalance. Trauma can also be a cause for SSD, which can include damage to the structure within the ear or exposure to loud noises.

Another often overlooked cause of hearing loss is through ototoxic medications. Certain antibiotics, high-dose aspirin, and chemotherapy drugs have all been linked to single-sided deafness as a side effect of treatment. It’s important to always discuss any potential side effects with your doctor when beginning treatment and equally to get regular hearing checks to catch any issues early on.

How is Hearing Loss in One Ear Treated?

Because single-sided deafness can occur quickly or develop slowly over time, regular hearing exams can help diagnose and treat these conditions and their underlying causes before they affect your daily life. At Associated Hearing, our expert hearing care professionals  use a variety of methods to measure and assess your ability to hear sounds. In some cases, our experts may also look to imaging tests like MRIs or CT scans to get a better understanding of your hearing.

Like the causes themselves, treatment options can vary depending on the type and severity of the loss. While hearing aids are a popular and common solution, some types of UHL can also be treated through cleaning or medication. More severe cases might need to be addressed through cochlear implants, medications, or, in some cases, even surgery. Acoustic neuroma, where a non-cancerous growth forms between the ear and brain, is one such case where surgery is highly effective at treating the condition and restoring hearing.

For other conditions like Meniere’s disease, treatment and restoration can be achieved by managing the condition. Lifestyle changes, reducing salt and caffeine, as well as managing stress can all help control the symptoms of these conditions, including hearing loss in one or both ears. 

Because the underlying causes can range from mild to severe, any type of hearing loss should be seen as medically significant and discussed with an audiologist or your primary care provider.

Preventing and Treating Single-Sided Hearing Loss

When it comes to hearing loss, prevention and early treatment are crucial. You can take daily steps to protect your hearing by simply wearing ear protection or avoiding loud noises and environments. Maintaining good ear hygiene can also help you to avoid wax buildup in the ear canal. Additionally, speaking with your doctor or audiologist about any noticeable changes to your hearing can also have a huge impact on treatment and quality of life.

While living with hearing loss in one ear can certainly be challenging, understanding its causes and the treatments available to you can make managing this condition much easier. Whether it’s through hearing aids or by adjusting your lifestyle, treatment options exist to improve and preserve your hearing. 

While many take it for granted, your hearing health is an important part of your overall well-being. Unilateral hearing loss doesn’t have to limit the way you live and enjoy your life. By being proactive about addressing single-sided or binaural hearing loss, you’re investing in a future filled with the sounds that matter the most to you.

With the proper support and solutions, you can turn small actions into significant improvements — but it all starts by prioritizing your health. Schedule your appointment and take back your hearing today.