Most people are familiar with hearing loss, a condition that affects millions of Americans each year. While the majority of people experience binaural hearing loss, or hearing changes in both ears, still others suffer from one-sided hearing loss, or hearing loss in one ear.
Let’s take a closer look at why one-sided hearing loss can occur, how it impacts overall hearing, and what can be done about it.
What Causes One-Sided Hearing Loss?
While the cause is not always easily determined, or could be due to a variety of factors, here are some of the most common reasons for hearing loss in one ear:
- An earwax buildup – Fortunately, hearing loss is typically temporary and goes away with earwax removal.
- Ear infection – With appropriate medical treatment, including use of antibiotics, hearing loss typically clears up once the infection is gone.
- Meniere’s disease – In addition to one-sided hearing loss, symptoms may include dizziness or tinnitus in the affected ear but long-term damage can often be minimized with appropriate treatment.
- Otosclerosis – This condition is rare but it involves abnormal bone growth in the ear and can affect hearing.
- Physical trauma to the ear or head – This can cause damage to the nerves responsible for hearing or to the physical ear parts themselves.
4 Ways One-Sided Hearing Loss Affects Overall Hearing
It’s no accident that the human body has two ears. When working as intended, the ears pick up sounds that are then interpreted by the brain so that we can make sense of the world around us. With one-sided hearing loss, however, the entire process is disrupted and hearing is affected in several ways:
- Trouble pinpointing sound – With normal hearing, your brain identifies where a sound is coming from simply by which ear picks up the sound first. However, with one-sided hearing loss, the brain has more difficulty pinpointing the location or direction of sound. This can present a safety challenge, especially with elderly individuals who may already have other senses that are failing.
- Difficulty hearing in noisy environments – Whenever you are in an area with significant background noise, your brain works overtime to decipher which noises are important and which ones should be filtered out. This is known as selective listening and is a process that becomes much more difficult when only one ear can hear well.
- Poor volume detection – When both ears are working normally, the brain perceives sound volume to be louder when the sounds are received by both ears. When only received by one ear, however, the sound is perceived to be quieter. Not knowing exactly how loud a particular sound is could lead to noise-induced hearing loss in the functional ear if an individual unwittingly exposes themselves to sound that is much louder than it is perceived to be.
- Listening fatigue – The extra effort required by the brain to interpret sounds heard by only one ear can lead to cognitive overload. While they may have previously been able to multitask while listening, someone with one-sided hearing loss must now focus all of their energy on simply hearing. Listening fatigue sets in and much of a conversation could be missed.
Is Sudden Hearing Loss In One Ear a Concern?
The short answer to this question is YES. If you or a loved one experiences one-sided hearing loss that progresses rapidly, not occurring as a gradual change, please seek medical attention as soon as possible. Quick identification of the cause and appropriate treatment can sometimes keep the condition from becoming permanent. If not dealt with in a timely manner, hearing loss in one ear can turn into permanent single-sided deafness.
Hearing Loss Treatment In Mesa and Scottsdale, AZ
Regardless of the cause of hearing loss, it’s important to seek help when you first notice hearing changes. Early diagnosis can sometimes prevent the progression of a loss of hearing, keeping it from being as extreme as it might be if left untreated.
At Advanced Hearing Group, hearing loss treatment starts with a hearing test and thorough hearing evaluation with an audiologist at one of our Mesa or Scottsdale locations. Then, equipped with the right information, our hearing healthcare professionals can prescribe the best hearing loss treatment plan for each individual.
If you’re ready to start hearing better so you can enjoy a better quality of life, simply contact us today to schedule an appointment.
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