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Tinnitus in One Ear – Causes and Treatments

Many people ask whether tinnitus in one ear is possible, or whether it has to be in both ears. In fact, the sounds that tinnitus sufferers hear may seem to come from one ear, or both – and at times, the sound may even sound as if it’s coming from your head.

Is it possible however, that some may only experience tinnitus in one ear. It can initially develop in one ear and later progress to the other. The salient point is, that in whichever ear the tinnitus presents itself, there will be a persistent sound that won’t go away. The sound may be steady, or pulsating (i.e. in sync with your pulse or heartbeat).

Possible Causes of Tinnitus in One Ear

We have all probably experienced what tinnitus is like at some stage in our lives. If one of our ears was close to a loud noise, like a gunshot or smack in the ear, you may remember hearing a ringing sound for a short time in that ear. This comes from your inner ear nerve fibres having been impacted by the damage.

Single ear tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss. If a hearing test shows a one sided hearing loss, or an asymmetric hearing loss (worse in one ear than the other), then the index of suspicion for an acoustic neuroma is high. An acoustic neuroma (sometimes termed neurinoma or schwannoma) is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that arises on the nerve of hearing and balance (8th Cranial Nerve) within the inner ear.

If there is tinnitus in one ear, even if the hearing test is normal, there is a high index of suspicion for an acoustic neuroma. The definitive diagnostic test for an acoustic neuroma is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the nerve of hearing and balance. This test is usually performed with injection of a contrast material, called gadolinium. With contrast the MRI is 100% effective in diagnosing even the smallest acoustic tumor. Without contrast, small tumors, limited to the inner ear, may be missed. Some people can not have an MRI scan, for various reasons. In that instance a CT scan can be performed. Although not as accurate as an MRI, it will diagnose most acoustic tumors.  tinnitus in one ear

Tinnitus is most noticeable when your environment is most quiet. For this reason, it has sometimes been called “the sound of silence”. If everyone was placed in a quiet, soundproof room, we would all hear at least a a type of rushing or hissing sound. Usually this noise is masked by environmental sounds. It is when this type of noise becomes intrusive into everyday life that it can become immensely irritating and becomes known as ‘tinnitus’.

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Tinnitus in one ear. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

Aspirin overdose
Quinine overdose
Ear wax
Impacted cerumen
Eustachian tube dysfunction
Acute ear infection
Chronic ear infection
Noise-induced hearing loss
Trauma (e.g. whiplash, airbag)
Barotraumas
Temporal mandibular joint disorder
Migraine
Ototoxicity
Otosclerosis
Pseudotumor cerebri
Glomus tympanicum
Glomus jugulare
Acoustic neuroma
Thyroid disease
Autoimmune inner ear disease
Idiopathic
Sickle cell disease
Anemia
Osteogenesis imperfecta
Symptomatic Chiari malformation
Late-onset congenital hearing loss
Hypertension
Infections:
Meningitis
Lyme disease

Sound Therapies for Tinnitus in One Ear

Certainly, if you have hearing loss in only one ear, then you only need one hearing aid. Even with maskers, masking just the affected ear might be effective. Yet, when the patient successfully masks the tinnitus in one ear, tinnitus often shows up in the other ear. What’s happening is that the tinnitus has probably been present in both ears all along, but it was only heard on the louder side. When the dominant side was masked, the quieter tinnitus on the other side became audible. Patients frequently do better with maskers in both ears.

The protocol of tinnitus retraining therapy is to stimulate both ears, because the entire auditory system needs to be stimulated. Remember, once we get beyond the inner ear, the ears are connected to each other within the brainstem.

If I have tinnitus in one ear, will it start in the other ear as well?

If you have tinnitus in only one ear this will need to be investigated by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to determine what might be causing the tinnitus. In most cases just because you have tinnitus in one ear does not mean you will also eventually get it in the other ear.

Intermittent Tinnitus in One Ear

What Causes Intermittent Tinnitus In One Ear? If the tinnitus is in only one ear it is because only this ear has received some sort of damage to the inner ear (usually to the cochlea). This damage can be due to a number of factors such as: single exposure to sudden very loud noise; prolonged exposure to loud sounds; various infections; neck or head injury; reaction to various drugs.

There are two reasons why the tinnitus is intermittent. i.e. that you experience periods of silence in between the bouts of tinnitus. The first reason is that the other sounds around you are drowning out the noise of the tinnitus. The second reason is that the brain is somehow managing to ignore the tinnitus, but then it ceases to do so.

Suggested Self Help Ideas

Just try to find ways to ease up the ringing noise, lower your sodium/caffeine intake, no alcohol, no high pitched music, don’t use headphone/earphone, and get enough sleeps. If you can’t sleep at night, download soft music (preferred jazz, white noise, saxophone music) so you can listen to it during sleeps, it helps block your ringing sounds, try songs that are specifically for babies, songs that make u go sleep fast.

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