Can Hearing Loss Occur in Only One Ear?

11/15/2022 | Hearing loss, Patient Resources

Single-sided hearing loss (SSHL) is more common than most people think.  This is because people who experience it do not seek help or tell anyone but instead suffer in silence and hope that it will correct itself.

SSHL is much easier to live with than hearing loss in both ears but is still very inconvenient and can lead to other health issues outside of hearing. If left untreated, it can cause your healthy ear to be overworked, which causes many other problems later on.

We hope to educate and raise awareness among everyone here in La Grande on the dangers of single-sided hearing loss and how to treat it. Early detection is our best chance to reduce the damage and provide relief, but we are equipped to handle any level of hearing loss that is presented to us.

Defining Single-Sided Hearing Loss

This is a condition where the name is very literal. SSHL occurs when someone experiences a hearing loss of any degree in only one ear.

Their other ear functions fine and does all the heavy lifting regarding receiving sound and transferring it to the brain for processing. There are many reasons for this, but the critical aspect is treating it right away and restoring balance to your listening capabilities. 

Causes of Single-Sided Hearing Loss

Unfortunately, there is no one way that SSHL can be brought on, and the causes are similar to any kind of hearing loss.

  • Born with it
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noises
  • One-time experience with a loud noise
  • Earwax buildup
  • Fluid buildup
  • Ear infections
  • Self-inflicted

You can be born with it, which the doctors will test for and identify immediately. This allows the child to assimilate to it properly so it doesn’t hinder their growth. Or it can develop over a long period of exposure to loud noises.

SSHL can also creep up due to an excess or buildup of earwax. If your wax isn’t excreted efficiently or becomes impacted, then that will block sound from entering your ear canal. This makes it difficult for your eardrum to receive the vibrations necessary to process the sounds.

Fluid buildup or ear infections are also common causes of single-sided hearing loss. Both of these conditions can present themselves in only one ear.

Another common cause of single-sided hearing loss is self-inflicted. We often see patients who attempt to clean their ears with cotton swabs or bobby pins. We strongly urge everyone to avoid this method, as it will always cause more harm than good.

The results of this method are rarely helpful, as you will either push earwax deeper in your canal, causing impaction, or you will push too deep with your cotton swab and puncture your eardrum. This is very painful and irreversible.

Single-Sided Hearing Loss Needs To Be Diagnosed With A Hearing Assessment That You Can Schedule Right Here

Identifying SSHL in Yourself or a Loved One

Identifying and then acting on when you or a loved one has a hearing issue can be more complicated than it looks. We have discussions all the time with patients who wish they had come to see us sooner. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please visit us immediately.

Many careers cause SSHL because of the consistency of the damage being inflicted. A truck driver, for example, who spends thousands of hours driving with the window down will have an increased risk of developing a hearing loss solely in their left ear.

Be aware of how your loved ones listen to you and see if they angle their head one way or another. With healthy hearing, both ears work in unison to gather sound by facing the source head-on. Those with only one healthy ear will point that ear in the direction they want to listen.

Possible Treatments for SSHL

We have two popular and successful options at the ready in order to treat single-sided hearing loss. The correct and most effective diagnosis will depend on the health of your hearing in your good ear.


A CROS device is used with a traditional hearing aid for those with healthy hearing on one side. The CROS device captures the sound and transfers it to the good side for processing instantaneously.


If your hearing loss is much worse in one ear than the other, then we use a BICROS device. This works the same as a CROS, except the hearing device in your good ear is more powerful and more readily equipped to transmit sounds as well as receive them from the weaker ear.

What Are the First Steps to Getting Treatment?

To relieve any hearing issue, we always start with a comprehensive hearing assessment. This procedure gives us all the information we need to make an informed decision on how to improve your hearing.

The test starts with a detailed conversation about your hearing habits and what environments you expose your hearing to the most. Having this information will help us address not only the current situation but also improve your hearing over the long run.

If you have any questions regarding single-sided hearing loss or any hearing issue, please contact us immediately. Waiting will not make the problem disappear; we are always standing by to help all our neighbors here in La Grande.

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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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