One-sided deafness or single-ear hearing loss needs to be checked! Hearing loss in one ear can have several different causes.
Also known as unilateral hearing loss and unilateral deafness, it occurs when you have reduced or no hearing in just one ear. It may occur suddenly or gradually but it always needs to medically checked by your audiologist, GP and possibly ENT.
With even the slightest hearing loss in one ear it may be difficult to understand speech in a crowded room. You may also have a problem tuning out background noise and in determining which direction a sound is coming from.
The following can be causes of unilateral hearing loss:
Injuries, and medical conditions can also cause deafness in one ear, including beriberi, brittle bone disease, ear drum perforation, Meniere’s disease, swimmer’s ear, Paget’s disease, Reye’s syndrome and shingles, among others.
There are two types loud noise that can cause permanent hearing loss - one would be from a sudden very loud noise like that of an explosion or continuous noise such as found in a noisy factory.
Some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, diuretics, aspirin toxicity, and antibiotics like streptomycin can also be culprits.
The GP may refer you to the hospital to a have a head scan. This is standard procedure for sudden unilateral deafness to rule out the extremely rare occurrence of head tumours affecting the auditory nerve.
Other causes, such as a build-up of wax in the ear canal or ear infections that can cause fluid build-up, are reversible, but causes due to problems with the inner workings of the ear itself, may be permanent.
Treatment, depending on the cause, can include surgery to repair the ear or remove a tumor, antibiotics to treat infection, steroids to reduce inflammation and swelling or discontinuing use of a medication that is causing the hearing loss.
Treatment could be simple, such as having a hearing health professional remove ear wax or, if irreversible, hearing loss may be treated with a hearing aid. The key to the success of most treatments is speed of detection so get it checked!