As a general rule of thumb, you need all the parts that you came with, ears included.
So the real question(s) should be:
- Is it a problem that you can hear better in one ear than the other?
- Can you hear with one good ear as well as people with two ears can hear?
Let’s answer question 1 first.
Hearing loss in one ear can result from one or more of the following:
- Bacterial infections
- Head injury
- Vascular (blood supply) problem
- Meniere’s disease
- Viral infection (herpes)
- Brain tumor
- Acoustic trauma (sudden loud noise to one ear)
Which is why before we worry about Question 2, it’s important to figure why one ear is hearing better than the other. If the underlying cause has been determined and addressed we can move on to Question 2.
Can you hear as well as people with two ears?
(Sometimes the short, simple and right to the point answers are the best).
The only time you won’t notice a problem when you have one good ear is if you’re in a quiet, fairly small space. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem. It just means it isn’t noticeable. So why does a hearing loss cause a problem the rest of the time?
There are a number of reasons why.
Head Shadow Effect
When a sound occurs toward the bad ear, the arrival of that sound at the good ear is partially blocked by your head, commonly known as the head shadow effect. The sounds most easily blocked are the sounds that are necessary to hear high-pitched consonant sounds. These consonants allow us to tell the difference between words like “seven” and “eleven” or “fast” and “east”.
Your brain needs well-balanced sound information from both ears for you to be able to determine where a sound is coming from. Both a sound’s time of arrival (it arrives a few milliseconds faster at the ear closest to the sound) and its intensity or loudness (louder for the ear closest to the sound) are cues that your brain uses to locate the source of a sound. When you have only one ear, all sounds seem to be coming from the side of the good ear, even when originating from the bad ear side.
Sound Summation and Noise Squelch
A sound, which is barely heard at 20 feet away with only one ear, is easily audible at 30 feet away when two ears are listening. This is called the binaural summation effect. In addition, it creates an advantage called binaural squelch. In essence this advantage doubles the volume.
If you are having a problem hearing out of just one ear, make an appointment with us to get it checked. Fortunately for most people with a hearing loss in one ear (two ears too), we have a solution.