Have you noticed that you hear better with one ear compared to the other ear? If you have noticed that you are turning your head to one side to hear better, you are hearing better on the phone with one ear compared to the other, or if you have tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing, humming) in one ear and not the other then you may have hearing loss in one ear.
This is not normal and an assessment should be carried out by an Audiologist to determine why hearing in one ear is better compared to the other.
Hearing that is worse in one ear could be an indication of a medical condition. Otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth around the ossicles, the small bones in the middle ear cavity is a common reason for unilateral hearing loss. This condition will reduce the mobility of the eardrum and significantly limit the ability for the sound waves to be conducted through these middle ear bones.
An asymmetrical hearing loss could also indicate a vestibular schwannoma, which is a small slow-growing benign growth on the vestibular nerve. A vestibular schwannoma is often referred to as an acoustic neuroma and it can cause hearing loss in one ear from pressure on the auditory nerve or dizziness from pressure on the adjacent vestibular nerve. Common symptoms include a feeling of pressure in the ear, as though you have water in your ear, ringing in one ear and hearing loss.
There are several medical conditions which can cause a decrease in hearing but the lesson is that hearing better in one ear is not normal and should be evaluated as soon as you notice the difference.
If you are lucky, it is just a blockage of cerumen or wax in the ear canal.
Aisling Smyth, M.Sc., R. Aud