Halfway Hearing: Understanding Hearing Loss in One Ear


Have you ever wondered why we have two ears instead of just one? It’s no secret than one can still hear with only one functioning ear, but the sound difference is incredible. (Check out this video for a glimpse of what is like to only be able to hear with one ear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UscwLYvQIzQ) Your brain is better able to decipher sounds with two functioning ears vs. only one. While this is a fairly simple concept, let’s dig deeper. The small details of sound, such as determining a direction of sound, understand sound decibels, and separating speech from background noise is why we need two functioning ears. That is a lot to process! In this case, the old saying rings true: “Two are better than one”.

How do you know if you have hearing loss in one ear? The symptoms are pretty straightforward, but they can vary depending on the patient. However, most often it is characterized by difficulty in locating a sound source. For example, you might have trouble knowing where a voice is coming from when addressed from your deaf side. You may also miss have trouble following conversations or have difficulties communicating in certain situations.

Hearing loss in one ear, also known as unilateral hearing loss, should not be taken lightly. When you notice that one hear is hard of hearing or deaf, this is qualified as a medical emergency and should be dealt with right away. Unilateral hearing loss can have many causes such as: injury to the ear, exposure to loud noises, certain medications, blockage of the ear, tumor, or illness. However, hearing loss is a very natural part of the aging process and unilateral hearing loss could be a result of simply getting older.

Another common cause of unilateral hearing loss is known as Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL), or Sudden Deafness. SSHL is described as, “…unexplained, rapid loss of hearing—usually in one ear—either at once or over several days.” (Read more at:  https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/sudden-deafness) Usually, about half of people who experience SSHL recover most of their hearing in about 2 weeks on their own. However, it is highly recommended to schedule an appointment with an ENT to assure at least a portion of hearing recovery.

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