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Hearing Loss in One Ear? 5 Possible Causes

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on January 13, 2021
Here’s what you need to know about hearing loss in one ear and possible treatment options.

Hearing loss in one ear could be sudden or over time. If you have it in only one ear, then your doctor will call it unilateral hearing loss. There may be different reasons for hearing loss in one ear — ranging from ear wax to a burst eardrum, or in more serious cases Ménière's disease.

Earwax

The ear produces wax to clean and protect itself. According to the NHS, the earwax generally falls off by itself but if it doesn’t and blocks your ear, then there are ways in which you can take it out.

According to Mayo Clinic, your doctor can remove the excess ear wax by suction or with a curet, a small curved instrument that gently scrapes out the ear wax. If the wax is hard to get out then your doctor might flush it out using warm water, an ear bulb syringe, or prescribe ear drops to soften the wax. Sometimes wax can be severely stuck and an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist might be needed. They have specialized equipment that can get out wax that is more difficult to remove.

Ear Infections 

An infection in the ear due to a bacterial or viral infection may cause loss of hearing, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The infection causes fluid to build up in your ear canal and can result in gradual but (in the vast majority of cases) temporary hearing loss.

If you are in severe pain, your doctor may tell you to prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. 

Ruptured Eardrum

Your eardrum can burst due to an infection, really loud noises like an explosion, pressure from flight take-offs and landings, or even by objects such as cotton buds that you use to clean your ear. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s best to get infections treated promptly and take precautions to protect your ears from loud noises, while flying, and avoid putting any objects in your ear canal.

Ménière's Disease

According to Mayo Clinic, Ménière's disease is an ear disorder that can lead to hearing loss, typically in one ear. You will typically also experience symptoms like dizziness, ringing in the ears, or a feeling of fullness in the affected ear. You must consult your doctor immediately to minimize the long term symptoms of the disease.

Abnormal Bone Growth In the Ear

In very rare cases, abnormal bone growth in the ear can cause hearing loss. This condition, called otosclerosis, worsens over time and may affect one or both ears, according to MedlinePlus. Your doctor may recommend that you use a hearing aid or have surgery to remove the excess bone growth.

“Most of these conditions require a full workup with an otolaryngologist or specialist for treatment,” Kaitlin Anderson, AuD, CCC-A, a clinical audiologist with Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, Illinois tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Depending on the severity, unilateral hearing loss can be treated with a hearing aid, ear implants (placed with surgery), or other assistive listening devices, according to Anderson. 

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.