Our team’s expertise in pediatric audiology enables us to carefully evaluate children's hearing abilities and ensure that any hearing loss is detected early and appropriate interventions are taken.

Why Do I Have a Hearing Loss in One Ear?

by | Nov 27, 2022 | Hearing Loss, Patient Resources

A sudden hearing loss in one ear is often temporary. 

Single-sided deafness (also known as unilateral hearing loss) happens more often than you might think. However, it can usually be fixed if you identify the cause soon enough with appropriate medical attention.  

Just don’t wait too long – it’s vital to address any issues within the first week. Otherwise, your ability to recover is significantly lessened.  

The consequences of an untreated single-sided hearing loss include a reduced sense of direction. It also becomes challenging to understand conversations in noisy environments. 

So, how does it happen?  

There are several potential causes of unilateral hearing loss. Let’s go over them so you can take corrective action as soon as possible. 

Earwax Buildup & Infections Can Cause Single-Sided Deafness 

While earwax is essential to protect your middle and inner ears from dust and other debris, too much earwax is a problem.  

If your outer ear is full of earwax that blocks sound from getting through, you’ll feel like you’re not hearing properly (or at all). Sometimes the earwax levels in one ear build up naturally. Other causes include using a lot of Q-tips which push the wax farther down your ear.  

The result is a small wax barrier that needs to be removed with oils or irrigation. But earwax isn’t the only issue. 

Outer ear infections are also a potential culprit for causing unilateral hearing loss because they can cause a buildup of excessive middle ear fluid. This fluid can block sound transmission from the three bones in your middle ear.  

Again, this causes the sensation of partial or complete deafness until the infection is cleared and the fluid is drained. Sometimes it may not be the middle ear itself that’s infected, which is why it’s always essential to visit a doctor if you suspect something is up. 

Other Infections or Blockages That Cause Unilateral Hearing Loss 

The eustachian tubes are small passages that connect the inner ear to the upper throat behind the nose. They equalize pressure in the ear, clear secretions, and protect it from pathogens.  

From time to time, these tubes can get blocked, and pressure can no longer equalize. This buildup of pressure can cause a feeling of fullness, deafness, and even ear pain. 

In the case of a minor blockage, the solution can be as simple as swallowing, chewing gum, or yawning.  

But a more serious blockage may require medication because fluid builds up in the middle ear. You’ll need a medical examination and perhaps a hearing test to determine the real cause of the problem. 

A Ruptured Eardrum’s Effect on Deafness in One Ear 

When the thin tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear gets torn or punctured, this condition is known as a ruptured eardrum. 

A ruptured eardrum can result in hearing loss in that ear and, while it often heals within a few weeks without treatment, surgery is sometimes required.  

Causes of ruptured eardrums include infections, very loud noises, pressure changes, or objects such as cotton buds being pushed too deep into the ear canal.  

Regardless of the cause, medical attention should be sought so a qualified professional can determine if a rupture has occurred and if it’s likely to heal on its own. 

Once the ruptured eardrum is restored to full health, your temporary hearing loss should also be corrected. 

Other Causes of Unilateral Hearing Loss 

While less common, a condition known as Meniere’s disease can cause single-sided deafness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, or a stuffy feeling in the affected ear. This condition can develop at any age, but it’s more likely to afflict adults between 40 and 60 years old. 

Medication can treat the disease, but surgery is sometimes needed for certain patients who don’t respond to available medicines, a salt-restricted diet, or cognitive therapy. 

Another less common cause of unilateral hearing loss is otosclerosis. This is abnormal bone growth that disrupts the ability of sound to travel from the middle ear to the inner ear.  One or more of the bones gets stuck in place and is unable to vibrate and transmit sound.  

Measles infections, stress fractures, or immune disorders are all possible causes and so far only surgery is the truly effective treatment for severe cases. 

Do You Have Questions about Hearing Loss in One Ear? 

By now you have a pretty good idea of what causes single-sided deafness. The more minor problems are easily fixed, but others require more detailed treatment. 

If you suspect you have too much wax in your ears, an infection, or any of the other conditions we’ve discussed above, we highly suggest that you go to your primary care doctor or your ear, nose, and throat doctor for treatment. 

You can also visit us at Audiological Services, and we’ll assess your hearing during your visit. We may be able to remove your earwax buildup if that’s what’s causing your unilateral hearing loss as well as diagnose your hearing loss so you have a report to give to your doctor. 

The bottom line is that most deafness in one ear is usually temporary and, in most cases, you shouldn’t require a permanent solution such as a hearing aid. 

For more information or to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment with one of our experts, please click here. At Audiological Services, we’re always happy to help. 

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Gabrielle Tabb Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Tabb received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders in 2016 from Texas State University. Following this, she attended the University of North Texas where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2020 with her Doctorate in Audiology. While in graduate school, Dr. Tabb had various clinical rotations in the DFW area, including UT Southwestern Medical Center, Bonham VA, multiple ENT locations, educational audiology, and several private practices. She completed her externship at OU Physicians Department of Head and Neck Surgery, rotating through the adult and pediatric clinics. Following her externship, she worked as an audiologist primarily in the OU Children’s Physicians location where she was able to serve medically complex children of all ages. Originally from South Texas, she is overjoyed to be able to serve her fellow Texans once again. Dr. Tabb is licensed to practice audiology in the State of Texas. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-A) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and is a member of Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA). She is passionate about providing the upmost hearing healthcare to people of all ages. She enjoys opening a world of sound to children who are in a crucial stage of speech-language development and adults who believed themselves to be relegated to a life of “social distance” and isolation because of their hearing loss. Dr. Tabb is dedicated to educating patients and their families about the effects of untreated hearing loss on social/emotional health, mental health, and communication. When she is not working, she enjoys playing with her dogs (Winston and Duke), spending time with her husband and family, gardening, cooking, watching movies, and reading.