Hearing loss as a whole is extremely common, but hearing loss in one ear is even more common and happens to a multitude of different people. The human ear is an open channel and without proper protection it can be damaged. It is used daily with the way we interact with the world, and often times we take it for granted. Whether listening to our friends, family, music, conference calls, driving, or going out for a run your hearing is more vital than you realize. From many moons ago, human hearing was primarily designed for the hunter across the vast tundra to stalk their prey as well as to protect them from an ambushing predator. Fast forward a few thousand years and now the human species stands among machinery at construction sites, rock concerts, firearms, motorcycles and ATV’s. All of them release sound that is far beyond the safe threshold for hearing. Instead of taking the safe precautions and being proactive when it comes to the protection of their hearing, many just accept hearing loss or hearing damage as a part of life. On the contrary it’s anything but, as long as you actively look for ways to protect and make sure your hearing stays intact. As aforementioned, losing hearing in just one ear is as common as general hearing loss. The following will go into how it occurs as well as ways it can hopefully be prevented.
Unilateral Hearing Loss
Unilateral hearing loss, or as it’s sometimes referred to as unilateral deafness is just as it sounds. It’s a significant hearing loss or overall deafness in just one ear. Common factors as to how it can occur range from blunt force trauma or being exposed to explosions/gunfire, use of certain drugs, earwax blockage, a tumor, or some form of certain illnesses. Certain drugs that could impact hearing can range from chemotherapy, diuretics, a toxicity to aspirin, and certain antibiotics. Testing for hearing loss is fairly simple and straightforward. Once you schedule an appointment with your audiologist, they will test your hearing at various decibels and be able to determine what form of loss you have and if in only one ear or both. Treatment will directly depend on how bad your hearing loss is as well as what is the cause. If it’s from wax buildup, specific medication or any form of tumor, the solution would be to remove the earwax, stop or change the medication or to hopefully remove the tumor itself. If the hearing loss is from something like exposure to loud noises, than unfortunately it’s irreversible and usually the only two solutions are a hearing aid or a cochlear implant of some kind.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)
This is also known as “sudden deafness” and has a randomized and still unexplainable onset. It can happen in both ears, but primarily occurs in only one. All of this can occur instantaneously or over a span of seven days. Oftentimes, people don’t realize that SSHL is in fact a medical emergency and instead put it off because they believe its due to the change of the seasons, earwax buildup, or an issue with their sinuses. The longer you wait to get it checked out, the lower the probability the treatments have to work. Many people who encounter this type of hearing loss will have it first thing in the morning or when they attempt to use a phone and listen with the affected ear. If and when the hearing loss goes way, many report hearing some type of popping sound. Those with SSHL report having tinnitus as well as nausea. The most common method to treat SSHL is through what are called corticosteroids. As with any other forms of steroids they reduce any form of inflammation, reduce any/all swelling as well as assist in the fighting of any future diseases. This is usually taken orally, but can be taken via injection if the patient cannot take it through their mouth for some reason. If there are other obvious causes such as an infection, drugs that are affecting your ears, or other bodily conditions your doctor will let you know how and what to alleviate the SSHL.
When it’s all said and done, unilateral hearing loss is a very real and very serious condition if not taken into consideration. We all have busy lives and for many of us, our own health may take the back seat from time to time. Your hearing, should not become one of these statistics. As mentioned previously, hearing is how we interact with the world and it is only when it is damaged or gone that when we truly appreciate it. Take the steps now and protect your ears when possible for if and when you are in loud or abrupt circumstances.