On World Hearing Day 2024, know what causes hearing loss in one ear

Sudden hearing loss in one ear can be alarming. On World Hearing Day, know the symptoms, causes and treatment for sudden hearing loss in one ear.
Woman trying to listen with one ear
Hearing loss in one ear is common in adults in late 40s. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 3 Mar 2024, 01:30 pm IST
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Hearing loss is often associated with old age, especially those with diabetes and high blood pressure. Hearing loss in babies is also possible due to maternal infections during pregnancy. There are also cases of sudden hearing loss in one ear in people in their 40s or 50s. They may notice a sudden hearing loss that develops quickly or they may wake up with this problem. On World Hearing Day, which is observed on March 3, let us put the spotlight on hearing loss in one ear. Read on to know the symptoms, causes and what to do about it.

What is sudden hearing loss in one ear?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, which generally affects only one ear, is a condition that develops over the course of hours to days, says ENT expert Dr Savyasachi Saxena.

Woman having hearing problem
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss mostly affects just one ear. Image courtesy: Freepik

Every year, between one and six people per 5,000 are affected by it, but the number could be higher because it often goes undiagnosed, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. It can happen to people at any age, but mostly affects people who are in their late 40s and early 50s.

What are its symptoms?

You may notice sudden hearing loss that develops quickly or you may wake up with a hearing loss. Here are some symptoms

  • Ringing in one ear
  • Ear pain
  • A sense of “fullness” in the ear
  • Frequently asking other people to repeat themselves
  • Watching the television with really high volume

What are the causes of sudden hearing loss in one ear?

Sometimes, ear infections with fluid buildup or too much wax in the ear canal can cause sudden hearing loss. But most cases of sudden hearing loss in one ear are idiopathic, meaning there is no specific known cause, says Dr Saxena. Viral infections can also lead to cochlear (hearing system of ear) inflammation and/or damage to critical inner ear structures.

Is sudden hearing loss in one ear serious?

Sudden hearing loss in one ear is an emergency case. It may lead to permanent hearing loss if not treated quickly and properly. Many people just assume they have an ear infection and don’t consult with a doctor right away. However, for evaluation and management of sudden hearing loss, they should check with an ENT doctor as soon as possible, says the expert. For best results, get the treatment started within 48 hours of onset of the symptoms.

How to treat or reverse sudden hearing loss?

Before starting the treatment, the doctor will check the severity.

  • If the hearing loss is due to wax buildup, you can gently remove the earwax with over-the-counter products such as baby oil
  • Antibiotics are generally given for ear infections
  • Antiviral drugs, neuroprotective medicines and neuroregenerative medicines are also given.

Corticosteroids are mostly used to treat sudden deafness, especially in cases where the cause is not known, says Dr Saxena. Steroids help to reduce inflammation, decrease swelling, and help the body to fight illnesses. They are usually prescribed in tablet form, but direct injection behind the eardrum is also found to be effective.

Despite the best efforts, some might not recover well and have permanent hearing loss. In such cases, they will require hearing aids or cochlear implantation later.

How to prevent hearing loss in one ear?

Sudden hearing loss can strike anyone, but you can maintain good health with daily exercise, good eating habits proper sleep, and avoiding alcohol and smoking, says the expert.

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Also, limit your exposure to loud noises. An event is considered to be too loud if later on you hear ringing in your ears. Your ears will feel full or sounds will seem softer.

Woman listening to music on phone
While using headphones or earphones, keep the volume low. Image courtesy: Freepik

To prevent damage to your hearing, do the following:

  • Keep the volume of your music, TV and radio down.
  • If you use headphones or earphones, keep the volume low. The person next to you should not be able to hear it.
  • Use headphones or earphones that block background noise.
  • At concerts or festivals with loud music, wear earplugs. Take breaks whenever possible and stay away from the speakers during such events.

Just a little bit of love is all your ears need!

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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