Hearing Loss in One Ear: Why You Need to Address it Soon

Generally, when people experience hearing loss, both ears are affected. However, some people may only have hearing loss in one ear, which can be either congenital or acquired. This type of hearing loss is referred to as unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness.

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) is common and can affect people of any age. Approximately 60,000 new cases of UHL are reported every year in the United States. 1 out of 1,000 children are born with UHL, and 3% of school-age children have UHL. Also, over 7% of adults have UHL. Though common, leaving it untreated can impact a person’s socialization, learning, and ability to understand speech.

Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

General Causes

  • Ear injury
  • Ear blockage (ear wax)
  • Illness
  • Excessive/Prolonged noise exposure

Medical Condition-Induced Causes

  • Meniere’s disease
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Neurofibromatosis type 2
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Eardrum rupture
  • Otitis media with effusion
  • Shingles
  • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Otitis externa
  • Reye’s syndrome

Prescription Medication-Induced Causes

  • Salicylate (aspirin) toxicity
  • Diuretics such as furosemide
  • Antibiotics such as tobramycin and streptomycin
  • Chemotherapy drugs

Symptoms of Single Sided Deafness

  • Fatigue
  • Tinnitus
  • Social withdrawal
  • Using one ear more than the other during phone calls
  • Difficulty understanding conversations, especially in noisy surroundings (so asking others to repeat)
  • Keeping the TV volume too high
  • Difficulty localizing sounds

How to Prevent Unilateral Hearing Loss

Avoiding exposure to loud noise can help prevent UHL, so:

  • Keep the volume low when listening to audio devices
  • Wear noise-reduction earplugs/earmuffs while attending concerts, working with noisy machinery, or in noisy surroundings

How to Manage Unilateral Hearing Loss

Depending on the cause and severity of your UHL, your audiologist may recommend any of these options to help manage your condition:

  • Hearing Aid

    Recommended for most instances of otherwise untreatable UHL, and optimized to increase the volume of the incoming sounds, so you can hear them properly.

  • Cochlear Implant

    Involves an external sound processor and a surgically implanted device to directly stimulate the hearing nerve (while routing around the damaged inner ear) to improve your hearing.

  • Frequency Modulation (FM) Systems

    These systems use an external microphone – often placed in front of a person speaking – to wirelessly send signals to an amplifier worn in the ear.

  • Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) Devices

    For cases where the poorer ear has no or nearly no hearing ability, a microphone (appearing identical to a normal hearing aid) is placed into that ear, which sends signals to a device in the better ear. With time, the brain learns to differentiate between sounds heard with the good ear (vs. sounds sent from the worse ear), enabling the listener to better understand speech and to better localize sounds from different directions.

  • Bone Conduction Hearing System

    In cases where the hearing loss is caused by middle or outer ear issues, the still-healthy inner ear can be stimulated directly through the skull. This involves the surgical placement of a metal stud into the bone behind the affected ear. Once the surgical site has healed, a small box-like amplifier is attached to it. That amplifier conducts sound vibrations through the skull, allowing the inner ear to function normally.

When to Visit an Audiologist

Visit your audiologist if you experience:

  • Sudden hearing loss/deafness
  • Chronic tinnitus
  • Severe earache
  • Dizziness or balance problems

Contact Hoffmann Audiology

If you or your child is experiencing UHL symptoms, schedule an appointment with our audiologist Dr. Chris Hoffmann, at Hoffmann Audiology for prompt diagnosis and treatment. With over fourteen years of clinical expertise in hearing test, she can treat your condition with desired results.



Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.

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