Diplacusis binauralis is when you hear the same sound differently in each ear. Age-related hearing loss usually affects both ears equally, but other factors can cause you to hear worse in one ear than the other.

1) Ear Infections, Allergies, Common Cold

A middle ear infection (otitis media), allergies, the common cold, among other factors, can cause fluid to build up in the middle ear cavity. This is often the result of a blocked eustachian tube, which drains fluid from the middle ear. When the eustachian tube is blocked, it can affect your hearing in the corresponding ear. In most cases, blocked eustachian tubes will become unblocked within a few days. However, chronic ear infections can cause up to a 45 decibel hearing loss in the infected ear, and if left untreated, that hearing loss can become permanent. If you suspect that you have an ear infection, you should see your primary care physician for treatment.

2) Earwax Buildup

Compressed earwax can plug the ears and diminish hearing in the blocked ear. If left untreated, compressed earwax can cause an infection that will require further treatment. If you think you might have earwax buildup, visit your audiologist or primary care physician for treatment options.

3) Exposure to Loud Noise

Single or repeated exposure to loud noise in one ear can cause hearing loss in that ear, and leave the other ear relatively unaffected (or less affected). For example, people who shoot long guns without using hearing protection will likely experience more severe hearing loss in the ear closest to the muzzle.

4) Tumors in the Ear

Tumors in the ear (called acoustic neuromas) are rare, but they do happen. Acoustic neuromas are benign, slow-growing tumors on the nerve between the brain and the inner ear, causing both hearing loss and balance issues. If you notice hearing loss in one ear and some shakiness in your step, visit your audiologist or primary care physician for a diagnosis and treatment.

5) Sudden Hearing Loss

Losing your hearing suddenly in one ear is serious, and should be treated as such. One of the most common causes of single-sided deafness is a virus attacking the auditory nerve, but there are other factors that could lead to the sudden loss of hearing in one ear. If you notice that you suddenly can’t hear in one ear, seek emergency medical assistance.

Healthy hearing is part of a healthy lifestyle, so if you notice your hearing and comprehension gradually decreasing over time, schedule a hearing test with an experienced Doctor of Audiology.

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Dr. Ana Anzola, CCC-A, FAAA, ABA Principal

Dr. Anzola received her Doctorate degree in Audiology (AuD) from the Arizona School of Health Sciences, and her Master’s Degree in Audiology and her Bachelor's Degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Towson University. She has been a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) since 1995, board-certified by the American Board of Audiology (ABA), and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).